The Seton Hall men’s basketball team pulled off a major upset on Providence on Saturday afternoon, besting the nation’s No. 12-ranked squad, 81-72.
It was a surprise to see the Dunkin Donuts Center sold out with the New England Patriots playing their divisional-round playoff game just 25 miles away. Instead of watching the Pats beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 27-20, Providence fans witnessed a Friar falter at the hands of Seton Hall, who came away with its biggest win of the year after embarking on the 190-mile drive south.
“We knew this was going to be a hard-fought game and coach told us to be aggressive on the offensive end,” said graduate guard Derrick Gordon, who scored a Seton Hall career-high 15 points in his first start as a Pirate. “He knew our defense was going to take care of itself but he wanted us to be aggressive on the offensive end.”
The Pirates certainly were aggressive. Taking on the top two scorers in the Big East in Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn, Seton Hall shied away from the triple and played grown-man basketball. Twenty-six of their 29 total field goals came inside the arc, equaling 38 points in the paint.
Dunn, heralded as one the nation’s top players, was harassed by three Pirates in the backcourt. He finished with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Isaiah Whitehead finished with 15 himself, accompanied by seven assists and five rebounds. At times, the McDonald’s All-American went shot-for-shot with the Midseason All-American. Khadeen Carrington notched a game and career-high 22 points, finishing 12-of-12 from the charity stripe, also a career-best.
Head coach Kevin Willard commented on his team’s offensive attack after the game.
“Last year we were a perimeter-offensive team. Now we’re a driving team, an aggressive team. I really thought if we could rebound, we could run. That’s our strength.”
The interior duo of Ismael Sanogo and Angel Delgado thrived, as both finished with double-digit rebounds, 21 total. Michael Nzei chipped in for six boards off the bench.
A self-inflicted dagger from Providence late in the second half sealed the victory for Seton Hall. With about three minutes remaining, Dunn collected his fifth personal foul, sending himself to the bench as his team attempted to fight back. It was the first time that the reigning Big East Player of the Year fouled out in his collegiate career.
“When that happened I said it was over,” Gordon said. “When he checked back in from his fourth foul, I thought, ‘How can we get him his fifth?’ We were able to get after him tonight.”
After the game Gordon cited his calmness walking into the storm of one of the most hostile venues in the Big East.
“I’m a vet, so I come into games and atmospheres like this and love it,” he said. “Coach gave me that role (defending Dunn) and I stepped up and made things happen.”
The Pirates’ next opponent might know a thing or two about being a part of upsets. Daniel Ochefu and Villanova visit the Prudential Center Wednesday as the Pirates look to pull off the upset for a second year in a row at The Rock.
When Gordon was asked about the facing Wildcats—who beat the Pirates, 72-63, on Jan. 6—his answer was short and focused.
“That’s a revenge game.”
George Balekji can be reached at George.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GeorgeBalekji.
Note: Quotes were obtained from 89.5 WSOU FM, Seton Hall’s student radio station.