Surging Hall punishes Providence

Providence College returned from an 8 day break, but not in the fashion they had hoped for. Seton Hall smacked the Friars, 70-52, dropping PC’s record to 19-9 overall and 7-8 in the Big East.

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The February funk has now officially become a February free-fall. With the loss, Providence drops to 1-6 during the month, with only a skin-of the-teeth win over Georgetown after a massive second half collapse, to show for their efforts. Fans and staff alike hoped that the 8 day break after a thumping at Xavier would allow the team to heal, both mentally and physically and regain their groove, but that didn’t happen.

The first sign that things weren’t going smoothly was a report on Monday that Kris Dunn had missed practice due to stomach bug. Predictably, for the second time this season, the stomach bug not only lingered with Dunn but spread throughout the team, causing Junior Lomomba and Rodney Bullock to fall ill also. All played against Seton Hall, but all were shells of themselves.

Without question, the Friars have been an unlucky team this season with illness. Against a surging Seton Hall team that has now established itself as the third best team in the Big East, PC couldn’t afford anything less than an A effort by its stars. While Ben Bentil looked healed from his ankle issues, the 8 day break that was supposed to rejuvenate was thwarted by the latest sickness.

Dunn played 29 minutes but was in and out of the lineup and ineffective. He scored 8 points on 4-12 shooting and was repeatedly victimized on defense by Isaiah Whitehead, who scored 25 with 6 boards and 9 assists and is finally playing up to his McDonald’s All-American status. More shockingly, Dunn recorded zero assists, the first time since his freshman season that he’s been shut out in that category.

PC’s problems extend beyond illness, though. The team simply does not shoot the ball well, making a late season run extremely unlikely. With Dunn limited, there simply are not enough quality players on the roster capable of picking up the slack offensively. Bentil was a monster in the second half and scored 31 points on 10-27 shooting, but he was the team’s only double figure scorer.

Desperate for help elsewhere, PC received 2 points from a sick Bullock on 0-2 shooting, no points from Ryan Fazekas on 0-4 shooting, no points from an ill Lomomba on 0-3 shooting, 2 points from Jalen Lindsey on 1-4 shooting, no points from Drew Edwards on 0-3 shooting, a bucket from Quadree Smith and 7 points from Kyron Cartwright on 3-10 shooting. That all added up to 19-67 shooting and a season-low 28 percent. From three point range, the Friars were a miserable 4-24 and Bentil canned all 4 three-pointers. Even from the free throw line, PC struggled, going 10-17.

Meanwhile, the Pirates placed four players in double figures, led by Whitehead, who was ably assisted by Angel Delgado, with 14 points and 10 boards, Khadeen Carrington, with 12 and Desi Rodriguez, with 11. Seton Hall also dominated the glass, 49-36.

Once again, the Friars got off to a slow start but a switch to zone allowed them to stay within 30-23 at the half, despite poor shooting. The Hall’s lead peaked at 53-32 with 11 minutes to play before Bentil heated up and led a desperate comeback attempt and his three pointer trimmed the lead to 59-52 with just over 4 minutes to go. However, with 3:40 on the clock and the Hall up, 60-52, Bentil, frustrated after his turnover, clothes-lined Rodriguez on a drive to the basket and was ejected with a flagrant-2 foul. From there, the Pirates had little resistance as they closed the game on a 10-0 run.

So now Providence will seek to regroup quickly. The Friars face DePaul at home on Saturday at 4 p.m. but that’s less than 48 hours away. Are two days enough for the ill players to get their legs back and perform at anything close to their best? A loss to ninth-place DePaul at home would be devastating to the team’s NCAA chances. PC has now lost 6 of their last 8 games and 8 of its last 13 to turn the season around dramatically. Desperation time has arrived in FriarTown.

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