Seton Hall stuns No. 12 Providence
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Kevin Willard knows his team can be a little strange sometimes.
Seton Hall opened its Big East schedule with back-to-back wins over Marquette and DePaul, only to lose the next two against then-No. 11 Villanova and Creighton.
Still, the Pirates’ coach knew better than to worry about Saturday’s game at Providence.
“This is a weird team. They have a lot of confidence - they’ve never lost confidence,” Willard said after his team’s 81-72 upset of the No. 12 ranked Friars at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
“Someone stopped me in the parking lot the other day and said, ‘Keep your head up,’ and I kind of looked around and said, ‘We’re 2-2 in the Big East. We’re 12-4.’ So we lost to Villanova on the road and a good Creighton team. It’s going to happen.”
The Pirates are in the midst of a stretch of four in five games against ranked opponents - none of which are lower than No. 12 in the AP Top 25 Poll - and will face No. 6 Villanova at home on Wednesday before heading on the road to play No. 7 Xavier on Jan. 23.
“This is a big confidence booster,” sophomore guard Khadeen Carrington said. “They’re a top 12 team in the country, they’ve got a great player in Kris Dunn. It just kind of shows what league it is. It’s a crazy league. Whoever comes out to play on a given night, that’s who’s going to win.”
Carrington scored 22 points, sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead added 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds and senior guard Derrick Gordon contributed 15 points off the bench as Seton Hall (13-4, 3-2 Big East) shot 48.3 percent (29 of 60) and outrebounded Providence 50-36.
Ben Bentil, a sophomore forward and the Friars’ leading scorer, finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Dunn, a junior guard, totaled 16 points and a season-low two assists and sophomore forward Rodney Bullock chipped in 11 points for Providence (15-3, 3-2).
The Friars are suddenly in panic mode after being dealt their first home loss of the year in a 65-64 loss to Marquette on Jan. 5 and barely squeaking out a 50-48 win at Creighton on Tuesday thanks to Dunn’s last-second shot.
“For whatever reason, we haven’t played well at home the last two games,” Friars coach Ed Cooley said. “We haven’t shot the ball well. From the 3-point line, (we shot) 5 for 25? We’re not getting a lot of production from guys and hopefully we can do a better job next time out.”
Seton Hall couldn’t take advantage of a slow start for Providence, which missed seven of its first 10 shots but still led by a point with 15:17 left in the opening half.
The Friars led by as many as five with 12:49 on the clock, but Whitehead and Carrington scored nine of the Pirates’ next 13 points to tie the game at 21 with 7:58 left.
Whitehead scored six in the final 2:21 to cap a 17-7 run that put Seton Hall on top 38-28 at halftime.
Whitehead and Dunn each had 10 points in the period while Bentil was held to four. Dunn, Bentil and Bullock shot a combined 7 of 21 in the first 20 minutes.
The Pirates opened a 13-point lead with 13:28 to play in the contest and held a double-digit lead until Bentil’s free throw with 9:38 on the clock.
Bentil’s 3-pointer with 2:56 remaining cut Providence’s deficit to 72-66, but six free throws in the final 1:06 sealed the win for Seton Hall.
NOTES: Providence is 51-47 against Seton Hall and has won six of the last eight meetings. ... Friars junior G Kris Dunn is 44 points and 47 assists away from becoming the fifth player in school history to reach 1,000 points and 500 assists. ... Providence coach Ed Cooley was back standing on the sideline after suffering from vertigo Tuesday in a win at Creighton. ... Pirates sophomore Gs Isaac Whitehead (15.1 points per game) and Khadeen Carrington (14.1) ranked among the top 11 scorers in the Big East entering Saturday. ... Seton Hall was second in the Big East in rebounding (39.4 per game) entering the game. ... Pirates senior G Derrick Gordon, who played two seasons at nearby Massachusetts before transferring to Seton Hall at the start of the 2015-16 season, had at least seven points off the bench for the seventh straight game. ... Providence will host Butler on Tuesday. Seton Hall will host Villanova on Wednesday.