Providence 76, Seton Hall 66
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP)
Vincent Council added 13 points and seven assists in his last home game for the Friars (17-12, 9-8 Big East).
Providence coach Ed Cooley said he was happy his team managed to ''gut'' out a win, because he had wanted to make Council's ''last home game something he'll remember.''
The Pirates (14-16, 3-14) entered the second half trailing 43-36 and were never able to make much of a dent in the deficit. Seton Hall came within five with eight minutes remaining, but a 12-3 Providence run over the next three minutes gave the Friars a comfortable advantage for the rest of the game.
However, the Pirates did not let Providence win without a fight. Trailing by 10 with 5:13 remaining, Fuquan Edwin and Aaron Cosby combined for three treys over the next 2 1/2 minutes to make it 71-64. The Friars' Bryce Cotton responded with his own 3-point shot, killing Seton Hall's momentum.
Providence went through a stretch in which it lost nine of 11 games before storming back to win seven of its last eight. Batts said the Friars' recent success made it impossible not to focus on the possibility of an NCAA tournament berth.
He cited Cooley's work developing a good rapport among the players for Providence's resurgence.
''It's just chemistry . we're really coming along,'' Batts said. ''Every game we play with each other we become more comfortable with each other.''
Cooley gives the credit to the players. ''We have a couple of guys playing like the player of the year,'' he said. ''It's been their concentration . their resolve.''
Batts added that they ''want to make history with this team.''
Although Edwin led Seton Hall with 15 points, Cooley and Batts said they saw Eugene Teague as the Pirates' most significant threat. Teague scored 13 points, but played only four of the last eight minutes of the game after his fourth personal foul.
Despite strong shooting from outside the 3-point line by the Pirates, who nailed 8 out of 18 attempts, Cotton and LaDontae Henton scored 15 points apiece to keep the Friars out in front. Henton also had 10 rebounds.
''We were deathly afraid of their 3s,'' Cooley said. ''They made eight. That's a big, big number considering the way we play.''
Providence was 5 of 19 from long range, with Cotton shooting 4 for 8 from behind the 3-point line for the Friars.
Providence had to make defensive adjustments in the second half to combat Seton Hall's 55.6 percent field goal percentage- 15 of 27 - in the first half. Cooley said the Friars ''were doubling the post, trying to trap ball screens'' in the first half but ''made it just the tough 2s'' in the second.
Providence also showed its strength beneath the rim, grabbing 40 rebounds to the Pirates' 34.
In the first half, Batts' 14 points kept the Friars in the lead despite sharp shooting from Seton Hall's Kyle Smith, who made 3 of 3 treys.
Smith was also responsible for a technical foul on Council near the end of the first half. As Council approached the basket on a fast break, Smith grabbed him with both arms, knocking the Friar to the ground. Council made both free throws to give Providence a 30-27 lead with 5:06 to go until the break.