After a slow start at Prudential Center, NCAA-hopeful Providence scratched out a 74-69 win against a Fuquan Edwin-less (bruised thumb) Seton Hall with the help of a game-high 24 points from lead guard Bryce Cotton.
The long-time Big East rivals trudged out to a slow start with a combined three points being scored going into the first media timeout. Seton Hall's (14-15, 5-11) sluggish start was not surprising, the Pirates have routinely started games slowly at Prudential Center this season, but a desperate Providence (19-10, 9-7) team failed to score a basket until the 13:42 mark. The hosts matched the Friars' low offensive output by coming up empty on nine straight possessions after Gene Teague (17 pts, 12 rebs) scored the opening basket of the game.
Teague and Sterling Gibbs (20 pts) started to pick up the tempo by spearheading a Seton Hall span of made baskets on six straight trips up the court between the first and second media timeouts. Feeling the pressure, Providence ebbed and flowed with the Pirates' inconsistent offensive spurts throughout the remainder of an offensively challenged first half before taking their first lead of the game at 28-26 from a Bryce Cotton uncontested dunk just prior to halftime. The visitors would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game.
Seton Hall was most successful when they were able to get the ball down low to Teague in the paint, where he was quite effective all game long, but had a rough overall shooting night (24-60, 7-23 from 3pt). "It's just tough, when we don't shoot well, there's a lot of guys that don't do well," said Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard post-game on 970 AM. "When you don't shoot well you've got to do other things well and we didn't do that."
Providence played inspired offensive basketball coming out of the locker room, scoring nine points within the first three minutes of the second half, a burst which extended the Friars' lead to 37-31 and induced a full timeout from Kevin Willard. Seton Hall fought back via the same duo that kept them in the game in the first half: Sterling Gibbs and Gene Teague. The combo clicked to score 30 of the Hall's first 40 points, but ultimately couldn't push Seton Hall over the threshold in the second half.
After cutting an eight-point Providence lead to two at 45-43, Seton Hall scored on just two made free throws over the 5:15 span that followed, subsequently allowing a 10-2 PC run. The ten-point deficit was unable to be significantly chipped away at by Seton Hall even after Kevin Willard was granted two 30-second timeouts with the clock under eight minutes and before the under-eight media timeout. Bryce Cotton registered nine points down the stretch including numerous free throws that kept the home team at bay in spite of 11 late points from Jaren Sina (11 pts, 2 asts), who received his fourth start in a row tonight.
Gene Teague's workhorse-like effort on the night earned him a double-double at the 9:40 mark in the second period. Teague's steady sapping of Providence's lead was ultimately not enough firepower to counter 46 second half points from Providence. The NCAA-bubble team didn't shoot well from the perimeter (3-14) but fought for every offensive board (11 ORebs) and executed their offense effectively at key times over the last 20 minutes, but was also helped out by a leaky Pirate defense. "We're just giving up too many easy buckets. It happened against DePaul and it happened again tonight," diagnosed Willard. Providence shut down Seton Hall during their 10-2 run and replied hastily to seven quick Pirate points between the under-eight and under-four timeouts. Lights-out free throw shooter Bryce Cotton hurt Seton Hall from the line (11-12) and received help from Kadeem Batts (14 pts, 11 rebs) and LaDontae Henton (13 pts, 8 rebs), both of whom ate the Pirates up in the paint.
Despite the impressive showings from Gibbs and Teague, Seton Hall's lack of a third consistent offensive scorer showed tonight with Fuquan Edwin sidelined. From the looks of it, Edwin may miss Seton Hall's matchup with Xavier on Monday too. "With what Fuquan said [about his injured thumb], I don't think he'll be able to play again [on Monday]," said Willard.