Henton, Dunn lift Providence past Seton Hall

The path to the NCAA Tournament continued for Providence College on Wednesday evening as the Friars used a sterling second half to subdue Seton Hall in Newark, 79-66. With the win, PC improves to 21-9 on the season and 11-6 in the Big East.

The 11-6 Big East record sets up a huge noon-time Senior Day game on Saturday at the Dunk against Butler. With a win, the Friars would reach 12 wins in the Big East for the first time ever, and more importantly, clinch the second seed in the Big East Tournament behind Villanova. That, in itself, would guarantee that PC stay out of the Villanova-St. John’s side of the bracket.

One thing that PC will need to do against Butler on Saturday is come out with more urgency and fire. PC’s lethargy, combined with Seton Hall’s energy from its own Senior Night, combined to produce a forgettable start for the Friars. With no flow to the offense and the Hall’s guards harassing Kris Dunn, the Pirates jumped out to leads of 10-5 and 20-13 before a LaDontae Henton layup pulled PC within one. Then the Friars went cold and a three by Sterling Gibbs and two by Haralds Karlis pushed the Hall to a 31-19 advantage. Seton Hall’s lead peaked at 36-21 but over the final three minutes, the Friars outscored the Hall, 8-1, by turning second chance opportunities into free throws.

Down 37-29 at the half, Providence knew that, despite their poor first half, the game was manageable. In the first four minutes of the half, Kris Dunn asserted his will, making three jumpers and assisting on a layup and a three by Henton and a dunk by Ben Bentil. Just like that, the game was tied at 42-all, and PC would go on to roll past the Pirates. A 17-6 run put PC up, 62-51 with 8:30 left and although two Isaiah Whitehead jumpers pulled the Hall back within 66-59, jumpers by Dunn and Henton, along with four free throws by Bentil and five by Dunn iced a sweet win for PC.

HENTON’S MILESTONE: With 21 points and 7 rebounds, LaDontae Henton eclipsed the 2,000 point mark for his career. He currently stands at 2,004 points and 1,019 rebounds in his storied Friar career, one of only two Friars, along with Ryan Gomes, in the very select 2,000 point-1,000 rebound club.

But consider this. In his high school career in East Lansing, Michigan, Henton scored exactly 2,000 points and pulled down 1,210 rebounds. Now ask yourself this question… how many players have scored 2,000 points and grabbed 1,000 rebounds in BOTH their high school AND college careers? Unfortunately, there is no way to check on this, but smart money would say that the answer is very, very few.

But Henton has always been about more than numbers. As Ed Cooley’s first recruit, LaDontae’s career has been well documented and his achievements have mirrored the increasing success of the Providence program. Henton has always been the ultimate junkyard dog, grit-type of player. A player who is going to get the tough rebound or muscle inside to score the critical layup. Henton has been a huge part of the identity of the current Friars and will be remembered as a change agent for changing the culture of Providence basketball to one of toughness, both physically and mentally. And that is more important than any set of numbers, however impressive.

DO NOT BE DENIED: With zero points and one assist in the first half, Kris Dunn was on his way to a miserable night of basketball. That all changed when the ball was inbounded to start the second half. Dunn imposed his will on the game and dominated before the first media timeout, bringing the Friars all the way back.

For the game, Dunn had 17 points, 8 assists, just two turnovers and 2 steals as he frustrated the platoon of guards sent to stifle him. In a matchup of McDonald’s All-Americans, Dunn again got the better of Isaiah Whitehead, who finished with 13 points and hit 3 threes but fouled Dunn hard near the end of the game in frustration after Kris stole the ball and tried to drive for a layup.

GOOD TO SEE: Both Carson Desrosiers and Ted Bancroft, battling knee injuries, saw action. Desrosiers played 19 minutes, most in the second half and contributed 2 points and 2 rebounds but was stout defensively in the middle. While Paschal Chukwu also played well in 19 minutes, Desrosiers will be needed for any hoped-for tournament runs.

STAT WRAP: Big Ben Bentil played one of his best games as a Friar. Bentil scored a career-high 21 points on 4-7 shooting and had 10 rebounds, 7 offensive. Ben also was 12-12 from the free throw line as he repeatedly took the ball to the rim and reaped the benefits. For the game, PC shot 29-33 from the free throw line compared to 8-13 for the Pirates. That huge advantage helped PC withstand 10 three-pointers from the Hall. In fact, this was the first game all season that PC allowed 10 three-pointers and still won.

The other big advantage for PC was on the glass, where the Friars held a 39-22 edge, including 12-4 on the offensive boards. Angel Delgado, who grabbed 15 rebounds in the first matchup, was a non-factor this night with 8 points and 7 rebounds. And that rebounding edge contributed to yet another startling statistic: PC outscored the Hall 20-0 on second chance points. Considering that the Friars had outscored Marquette 18-0 on second chance points in their last game, Providence has outscored its opponents by an amazing 38-0 on second chance points in its last two games.

NEXT UP: Butler. Saturday. At noon. At the Dunk. For 2nd place. And it’s Senior Day. Nuff said.

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