PC SURVIVES AGAINST SETON HALL

Doing things the easy way is not the way that Providence College prefers. And that was the case on Saturday afternoon, when the Friars put themselves in a position of having to hold off a dissension-ridden Seton Hall team, 69-62, in front of 12,120 at the Dunk.

On Wednesday, Seton Hall lost sophomore guard Jaren Sina, who quit the team amid reports that that there was in-fighting going on between the Hall’s veterans and some of the highly touted freshmen. In particular, a locker room tug of war appeared to be brewing between Sterling Gibbs and McDonald’s All-American freshman Isaiah Whitehead. When Whitehead missed time due to an injury, the Pirates actually seemed to play more cohesively and when he returned, so did losing.

The Pirates remain a talented, if troubled group and they arrived in Providence desperate for a win. Of course, the same could be said for the Friars. Everyone who looked ahead at the schedule knew that a February stretch of games that included three on the road and then back at home to Villanova would be an extremely trying stretch, but the reality of losses sometimes causes fans to forget what they knew. Three losses in four games had put Providence in desperate need of defending its home court before embarking on two more road games, including at Villanova.

FIRST HALF FLOW: For most of the first half, the game remained close as Providence took the lead for good, at 11-10, on a Kris Dunn layup eight minutes in. Two more Dunn baskets extended PC’s lead before Gibbs answered with his only three of the game. The Friars rode the lead to halftime, extending it to 32-25 on a three pointer by LaDontae Henton and a dunk and a free throw by Paschal Chukwu, who played 13 aggressive minutes in the first half while relieving Carson Desrosiers, who had picked up two early fouls. “Definitely the most aggressive that he’s played this season,” said Ed Cooley. “I probably should have gotten him more time in the second half.” Chukwu played just two minutes in the second half.

FOUL TROUBLE: Desrosiers was not the only Friar in foul trouble. Ben Bentil had also picked up two in the first half and the worst was yet to come. In the first eight minutes of the second half, Kris Dunn picked up three quick fouls, two of which were questionable.

After a Whitehead three trimmed PC’s lead to 34-32, Dunn answered with a layup and then picked Whitehead cleanly and roared in for a dunk. Kyron Cartwright missed a shot and Dunn picked up a foul on a reach in after the rebound when he seemed to have all ball. Dunn then picked Whitehead cleanly again and jetted in for another dunk. Filled with confidence, Dunn jabbed at the ball again on the Hall’s next trip downcourt and was called for his third foul.

After Sterling Gibbs picked Dunn, Gibbs cruised to the basket for a layup and, rather than allowing the easy layup to happen, Dunn reached in and picked up his fourth foul with 12:24 to play and the Friars holding a tenuous 41-35 lead. The next six minutes would be white-knuckle time for Providence.

HOLDING ON: Dunn’s fourth foul and exit breathed new life into Seton Hall. With Cartwright running the point with little ballhandling help, the Hall amped up the pressure and PC’s offense began to bog down. Angel Delgado’s layup made it 44-42 and the Hall finally caught up at 46-all on a jumper by Gibbs and a dunk by Brandon Mobley with 6:45 to play. At that point, Cooley could afford to wait no longer and Dunn reentered the game.

STRETCH RUN: With Dunn back in the game, Providence quickly settled down. A Dunn free throw gave PC the lead and Seton Hall would take it’s only lead of the second half on a Gibbs drive. A lane jumper by Desrosiers regained the lead and PC stretched it to 52-48 on a Henton three. To its credit, rather than fall apart, Seton Hall kept fighting but a jumper by Tyler Harris and a layup by Desrosiers made it 61-52 with 1:18 left. Sandwiched around a dunk by Harris, two long threes by Whitehead pulled the Hall within 65-60 with half a minute to play, but PC iced the game on Henton, Dunn and Cartwright free throws.

STAT LEADERS: The Friars were led by three players in double figures. Henton had a game-high 22 points and 9 rebounds and hit all four of PC’s three-pointers. Dunn chipped in with 19 points, 8 assists and 6 steals, while Harris had 10 points and 7 rebounds. Meanwhile, Cartwright played a strong 23 minutes in support of Dunn, with 5 points and 3 assists and Desrosiers added 8 points. For the Hall, Whitehead poured in 14 second half points to finish with 20, while Gibbs played a somewhat disinterested game, with 12 points on 3-11 shooting. Delgado had 8 points and a tough 15 rebounds.

For the game, both teams shot under 40 percent. PC outrebounded Seton Hall in the first half, 23-16, but the Hall controlled the glass in the second half, 24-13. The Pirates committed 19 turnovers and hit 19-25 from the stripe compared to PC’s 17-25.

WELCOMING: PC and yet another wild snowstorm welcomed 6’4 shooting guard Ricky Council, a North Carolina native, and his family. The talented scorer has been on PC’s radar for over a year but until recently had been attracting midmajor interest despite prodigious scoring outputs in high school and AAU competition. He is now starting to attract high major interest, including from Marquette and Creighton, and has an offer from the Friars.

HONORING: PC honored long-time radio Voice of the Friars Chris Clark, women’s hoopball star Andrea Magnum and the programs’ first two big man superstars, Jim Hadnot and John Thompson, at halftime. Banners went up at the Dunk for Hadnot and Thompson, and while the late Hadnot’s family flew in from California, athletic director Bob Driscoll had to accept the honor on behalf of Thompson.

NEXT UP: The win over Seton Hall was vitally important for Providence. With the win, PC moves to 18-8 overall and 8-5 in the Big East. Three of the final five games are on the road and, indeed, PC takes to the road for its next two games, against DePaul on Wednesday at 9 p.m. and a quick rematch against a very tough Villanova squad on the following Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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