Seton Hall 109, Providence 106

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.