Pope, Seton Hall hold off frantic Providence rally
NEW YORK (AP)—Seton Hall and Providence raced up and down the court, playing little defense in a one-sided game that felt like a school-yard mismatch most of the night.
That is, until Providence nearly pulled off a colossal comeback.
Herb Pope had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Seton Hall built a huge second-half lead before barely holding off a furious Friars rally for a 109-106 victory in the first round of the Big East tournament Tuesday night.
“It was kind of like two different games,” Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “Sometimes when you get up like that, it’s not easy to stay ahead in a game that long. There’s a different strategy. You try to use the clock. I maybe subbed a little bit too early. I’m not sure.”
What is sure is that 10th-seeded Seton Hall, after a major sigh of relief, will go for its fourth consecutive win Wednesday night against No. 7 seed Notre Dame.
In a breakneck game between the league’s two worst defensive teams, the Pirates (19-11) opened a 76-47 advantage with 13:36 to play and it appeared as though they were cruising to an easy rout.
But the 15th-seeded Friars (12-19), led by Jamine Peterson’s career-high 38 points and 16 rebounds, got within striking distance and then went to three-quarter court pressure. They forced turnovers and charged nearly all the way back, turning the final minutes into a frantic finish.
Vincent Council’s pull-up jumper cut it to 109-106 with about 8 seconds left as the crowd roared. And after Jeff Robinson missed two free throws on the other end, Providence—incredibly—had a chance to tie.
Freshman reserve Duke Mondy pushed the ball up the floor and hoisted a quick 3-pointer over Jordan Theodore that missed badly and caromed off the bottom of the backboard.
The loose ball rolled toward the baseline and the buzzer sounded, leaving the Friars with 11 straight losses to end the season.
When it was over, an exhausted Mondy lay flat on his back at center court, hands on his head. Council writhed in pain on the floor with leg cramps and quickly untied his sneaker as a trainer rushed over to stretch him out.
Council, a freshman guard who finished with 12 points, was receiving intravenous fluids after the game, Providence coach Keno Davis said.
“I look up at the scoreboard and we’re down 30. What adjustments really can you make at that point?” Davis said. “We were just trying to motivate our guys to not end the season like this.”
Peterson set a Providence record for points in a Big East tournament game, breaking current Florida coach Billy Donovan’s mark of 34 set against St. John’s in a 1987 quarterfinal.
It was quite a reversal from Saturday’s preview, when Peterson, who led the Friars in scoring (19 points per game) and rebounding (10 per game) this season, was held to six points and four rebounds in Seton Hall’s 92-80 victory at Providence.
The 215 combined points shattered the previous tournament record for a game that didn’t go to overtime: Boston College’s 94-92 win over Syracuse in 1982.
“You never know what’s going to happen playing in this league,” said Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell, who had 18 points in 23 foul-plagued minutes.
The Big East rebounding champ, Pope was a force before fouling out with 3:10 left. Theodore added 21 points and six assists, making all four of his 3-point attempts, in an outstanding, energetic floor game.
Seton Hall, one of several Big East teams hoping a tournament run could yield an NCAA berth, has won seven of nine following a three-game slide. The Pirates, who kept pushing the pace even with their large lead, shot 53.7 percent from the field and went 31-of-45 at the free throw line.
“That last play, it was nerve-racking, but I’m happy he missed it,” said Theodore, who set career highs with 21 points and eight assists Saturday against Providence.
Bilal Dixon had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Friars.