Pirates Sweep Deck With Friars

Providence College closed out the regular season with a 92-80 loss at the Dunk to Seton Hall (18-11, 9-9). With the loss, PC falls to 12-18 overall and 4-14 in the Big East.

The Friars' grueling 2009-2010 season neared an end with the loss to the Pirates. A brutal final eleven games culminated in ten straight losses, and 12 losses in the last 13 games, dropping PC's record from 11-6 to 12-18. Providence lost in every way imaginable… from the rare blowout thirty-point losses to numerous heartbreaking last second losses. The ten game losing streak ties for the second worst streak in PC history. Only a 12 game losing streak, in 1948-49, was worse.

During the losing streak, the Friars led in the second half of a number of games and lost every one. On the season, Providence surrendered 90 or more points in ten out of thirty games. The one constant was a series of breakdowns on defense and an inability to get critical stops.

In Seton Hall, PC faced its mirror image, a team that possibly resembled the Friars more than any other in the Big East. The Hall is a team that loves to run and gun, and pays fleeting attention to defense, preferring to roll up gaudy offensive numbers, and on this night, the Pirates had a little more in the tank.

For Providence, on a Senior Night in which they bid goodbye to Sharaud Curry, Brian McKenzie, Ray Hall and Luke Burchett, the Dunk was dead and the players followed suit, coming out flat. Part of it was the quick turnaround after the tough Pittsburgh loss, and part of it may be that the body punches that the Friars had absorbed in the last ten games had taken their toll. But Providence looked like a tired team.

Despite coming out in a box and one defense designed to slow down Jeremy Hazell, Hazell opened the game with a three, and PC quickly fell behind, trailing 10-4, four minutes in. PC hung around, narrowing the gap to 22-21 on two pretty drives and a three by Marshon Brooks (9 points, 7 rebounds), and trailed by just 29-23 with six minutes to go. At that point Curry forced a thirty footer that missed and Seton Hall raced to a double digit lead on a jumper by Jordan Theodore and a three by Robert Mitchell.

PC used a lay-up and a three pointer by Curry to fight back to within 41-35 but the Hall played for the final shot and Theodore knifed through for a lay-up that pushed Seton Hall to a 43-35 half-time lead. In the first half, PC had out-rebounded the Pirates 28-13, but had shot just 33% and had committed 11 turnovers. Meanwhile, Seton Hall hit 6-12 threes and shot 53%.

The second half went no better as the Friars never found an offensive flow. Seton Hall rapidly pushed the lead to double digits on a dunk by Hazell and a lay-up by Herb Pope, and the Friars spent the rest of the half chasing the Pirates. Every time that the Friars cut the lead, getting as close as 7 points, the Hall answered with lay-ups and short jumpers. An 8-2 run gave the Pirates a 61-48 lead, but PC had one final push.

Vincent Council led a 14-8 run with several twisting lay-ups and jumpers that trimmed the deficit to 69-62 with six minutes remaining. The Hall quickly answered with a Jeff Robinson lay-up and a Theodore lay-up and turnovers and missed shots doomed PC over the final five minutes, Forced to foul, Seton Hall drilled their free throws (25-30 for the game) and the lead kept growing, peaking at 86-69.

The Friars were undone by a number of factors. Defensively, every time that they crept close to the Hall, they could not get a stop. While both teams scored 40 points in the paint, the Hall knifed through to the rim with impunity. Jamine Peterson was undone by early foul trouble and spent long stretches on the bench. When he was in the game, he seemed frustrated and unable to get into the flow of the game. He fouled out with just 6 points and 4 rebounds and attempted just 8 shots.

PC outrebounded Seton Hall 51-31, including 28-9 on the offensive glass, but shot so poorly that it mattered little. The Friars also kept driving the ball inside but had little luck getting to the free throw line, hitting 14-22. While the Hall cooled off from three in the second half (1-5), they placed six players in double figures, led by Theodore's 21, Hazell's 18, Mitchell with 14 and Pope with 13 points, 5 blocks and 11 rebounds.

The positives for the Friars included Council's play, as the freshman point guard frustrated the Pirates with 25 points on 9-16 shooting and 4 assists. Council also clearly bothered Hazell, as play between the two got a bit chippy. Bilal Dixon fought through foul trouble to more than match Pope, racking up 11 points and 19 rebounds, including 10 offensive grabs. Curry contributed 19 points but shot just 6-16. Unfortunately, PC's offense never got untracked, as the Friars shot 38% for the game and 6-22 from three.

And so ends the regular season as PC looks forward to the Big East Tournament, which starts Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. For Providence, it's an opportunity to throw out the records and start anew, a final chance to taste success before the long offseason arrives. Providence may have to do it without Brian McKenzie, who appeared to suffer a foot injury in the first half and never returned. His injury status was unknown immediately after the game.

And the Friars will have an additional challenge. Their opponent? The very same Seton Hall Pirates in a 7:00 game on Tuesday, just three days removed from losing to the Pirates.

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