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Providence Notebook: Kris Dunn leads charge, Hall struggles against zone

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Thoughts on Seton Hall's 79-66 loss to Providence and quotes from Kevin Willard, Ed Cooley, Brandon Mobley and Sterling Gibbs.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

NEWARK - All of Seton Hall's vital signs checked out over the first 17 minutes on Senior Night, but Providence flipped a 15-point first half deficit into a tie game over a seven-minute stretch that spanned both sides of the halftime break and cruised from that point on.

The team was playing together, assisted on 10 of their first 13 field goals and had a very balanced scoring attack but then the wheels fell off due to a two-pronged Providence approach that featured Big East Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn (17 pts, 8 asts, 7 rebs) and a zone that the Hall could not crack.

In all, Providence carried an 8-1 run into the break that ballooned into a 17-1 surge that Seton Hall could not recover from despite a whole second half of basketball in front of them. Freshman power forward Ben Bentil added 21 points and 10 rebounds that warranted an MVP vote from head coach Ed Cooley while wing LaDontae Henton contributed a cool 21 points and 7 boards.

Six Pirates scored between 8 and 13 points on the night including 13 from senior Brandon Mobley and 11 points and 4 assists from Sterling Gibbs, who suffered a concussion last week in practice and was only able to practice once in the lead up to tonight's game.

The thoughts:

Kris Dunn is my vote for Big East Player of the Year. Dunn was held scoreless and had just one assist at the half, but put on a triple-double bid in just the second half alone. Dunn assisted or scored on 21 of Providence's first 23 points of the second half and was notably more aggressive. Ed Cooley said he told him simply to "play and go fast" at half.

Seton Hall had no answers for the Friars' zone. As you'll see below, Seton Hall was rattled by Providence's zone for most of the second half. It seemed to take them out of their rhythm and disrupted their shot selection over the first few minutes including a noticeable moment where Willard gestured to his guys about shot selection after Brandon Mobley's contact fell out following a contested baseline jumper; Willard said his guys lost focus.

If the Hall were capable of stringing together their good stretches, they are an NCAA tournament team. It's easier said than done and may be chalked up to in-game adjustments, but it was really fun to see the team play how they have in the first half tonight and the second half against Creighton. Whether it's coaching, young players or talented opponents, I'm not sure, but the inconsistency has killed them.

The quotes:

ED COOLEY

On his team's second half start: "I thought our energy was great, I thought that our passion was even better. That's as well of a 20 minute second half as we have had all year."

On his team's 20-0 second chance advantage: "That's a great stat. We preach pound the glass, pound the glass, I still don't think were pounding it enough."

On the zone's effectiveness after the half: "I think we played all zone in the second half, call it what you want but it was pretty big ... Our advantage is our length, our girth, our size."

KEVIN WILLARD

When asked if the game being changed was more PC's zone or more SH's offense: "We're having a hard time sustaining, not our energy, we're having a hard time sustaining our focus ... We lost our focus for about a four-minute span in the second half and I thought they took advantage of it."

On freshmen progress: "They're growing and they're getting better every time, they might not play good at times, but they're getting better and I've seen unbelievable growth from them."

On consistency: "We need to make sure we focus on playing 40 minutes. We played a really good second half against Creighton and we played a really good first half [tonight]. We have to sustain our level of intensity for the whole game. We're having one or two breakdowns per game and it's different guys every time and that's the hard thing, you've got to let them learn."

STERLING GIBBS

On what got Kris Dunn started:  "I think we contested a lot of his shots in the first half and I think in the second half he got a couple of open shots to get back in his rhythm ... We wanted to limit the open shots that we gave him and we didn't do that in the second half."

Describing the team's slow second half start: "I think that's one of the downfalls of our season. We don't really start the second half off as we want to, as we should. I think that really hurt us, we were up 15 and then they came out and really made a run and that really deflated us and they ended up taking over the game."

On what changed offensively: "I give a lot of credit to their zone, they have a lot of long guys, they were able to key on me and Isaiah [Whitehead] a little bit, they really extended us. I don't think it was 1-on-1 [basketball], it might have looked like 1-on-1, I think it was just somebody trying to get in the teeth of the zone but it was just so tight and they were so long it was tough."

BRANDON MOBLEY

On what changed offensively: "In the second half they played a lot of zone, so we wasn't able to get the ball inside as easy or get penetration because they're so long. In the first half we did a lot, in the second half we just weren't able to score."

"We just have to understand that the most important time in the game is the last four minutes of the first half and first four minutes of the second half."

When asked if Providence's length explains the 20-0 second chance difference: "I guess you can say that, but there's no excuses at the end of the day. They miss a lot of shots but they're great at following their own shots. They're not a great shooting team but when the shot goes up they know they can go and get it."