The men’s basketball team defeated Providence at home on Sunday afternoon, 81-71, in a game that the Friars never held the lead.
The win advances the Pirates overall record to 10-12, with a 4-6 record in Big East play, while Providence falls to 2-7 in conference play, with an overall record of 13-9.
“It’s a good feeling, winning is great. Right now we feel pretty good but we still have eight games left,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “We have to continue to work hard and get everyone playing on the same level.”
The Hall scored the first basket of the game and never looked back, suffocating the Friars on defense leading to 19 Providence turnovers, and limiting their own to 11 on the offensive end.
“We are so focused on defense it doesn’t matter if we’re scoring the ball,” senior guard Jeremy Hazell said. “We’re doing well after winning two in a row and we have West Virginia coming up so we’re going to get ready for them.”
Providence’s senior guard Marshon Brooks cut the deficit to eight with 1:30 remaining in the game, yet a Seton Hall fast break led to Hazell’s easy layup on the other end, keeping the game out of reach for the Friars.
Brooks, the Big East’s second leading scorer this season with 23.4 points per game (trailing only Connecticut’s Kemba Walker), scored 20 points on 8-17 shooting from the floor. He also committed nine turnovers, nearly half of Providence’s team total.
The Friars did not make their first field goal of the game until 13:07 left in the first half, when freshman guard Gerard Coleman’s layup cut the Pirate lead to seven, 13-6.
Brooks’ jumper brought the Friars’ deficit to six, 17-11, with 10:28 left to play in the first half, yet that would be the closest point margin Providence would see the rest of the game.
The Pirates took a 16-point lead into half time, 39-23. Neither team made a three pointer in the first half, with the Pirates going 0-7 and Providence 0-8 from behind the arc.
Junior forward Herb Pope led the way for the Pirates with 23 points in 31 minutes, recording a double-double with 10 rebounds, six coming on the offensive end. He also led the team with four blocks.
Senior forward Jeff Robinson tallied 20 points on 9-16 shooting from the floor, along with six rebounds.
Willard noted that after the Rutgers game, Pope and Robinson blamed the loss on themselves and rallied the team. From that moment forward the team has been moving in a new direction thanks to the two seniors’ leadership, Willard said.
“Jeff and Herb, over the last three weeks, have played as good as anybody in the conference,” Willard said. “They don’t get a lot of recognition because their numbers aren’t as high as guards, but from a defensive standpoint, a rebounding standpoint and a battling standpoint, those two have done a great job.”
Senior guard Jeremy Hazell was held to 10 points on 3-12 shooting from the field and 0-7 from behind the arc, but filled the rest of his stat sheet with six assists, four rebounds and two steals.
“He’s [Hazell] passing the ball, he’s diving for loose balls and he’s running the offense,” Pope said. “He has limited taking contested shots.”
The Hall shot four percent less than Providence from the field, but made 30-70 field goals compared to the Friars’ 25-54 total.
The Pirates also made one more foul shot than the Friars in nine less attempts. Seton Hall shot 81.8 percent from the free throw line, compared to Providence’s 54.8 percent.
Seton Hall will head to Morgantown, W.Va., Wednesday night to take on West Virginia at 7 p.m.
The Mountaineers are 14-6 overall, 5-3 in Big East play and coming off an 11-point win over Cincinnati.
“Coach Huggins does as good a job as anybody in the country,” Willard said. “We have to find a way to score against them because they are playing at a very high level defensively.”
Matt Bryant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.