Newark, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - The jockeying for positioning in the upcoming Big East Conference Tournament continues on Wednesday night, as the 24th- ranked Providence Friars hit the road to tangle with the Seton Hall Pirates.
Providence enters the final week of the regular season having won more than twice as many games as it has lost (20-9), and the team's 10-6 league ledger has it in third place in the Big East standings. Villanova has already secured its second straight regular-season crown, but the Friars, winners of three of their last four games, are battling Butler and Georgetown for second place and a more favorable seed in next week's conference tournament.
Seton Hall's season began in a positive way, as the team started 12-2 before the meat of the Big East schedule brought it back to earth. Since a 66-61 overtime win over Villanova on Jan. 3, the Pirates have gone just 4-10 to wind up at 16-12 overall and 6-10 in conference. A 67-66 win at home versus Creighton last Saturday stopped a six-game slide for SHU, which is 10-4 in Newark this season.
These two teams met in Providence on Valentine's Day, with the Friars prevailing in a 69-62 final. PC was led by LaDontae Henton (22 points, nine rebounds) and Kris Dunn (19 points, eight assists), while the Pirates got a 20-point effort from Isaiah Whitehead, 12 more from Sterling Gibbs and 15 rebounds from Angel Delgado.
As a result, the Friars have now won four of the last five meetings and lead the all-time series by a 50-46 count.
Providence was last in action this past Sunday at home against Marquette, a 77-66 victory, and Henton was his usual productive self in recording an impressive double-double consisting of 25 points and 15 rebounds. Dunn added 16 points and nine helpers, while Tyler Harris came off the bench to chip in 13 points and grab six boards for the Friars, who shot 45.3 percent from the field despite missing the mark on nine of their 11 3-point attempts. The Golden Eagles nailed 10 treys in the game, but suffered a 17-6 deficit in points from the foul line, as well as a massive 45-25 disadvantage on the glass. They were also guilty of 15 turnovers, off which the Friars scored 19 points.
Henton is going to win the Big East scoring title as he enters these last couple of games averaging a robust 20.4 ppg. He also ranks in the top-10 in the league in rebounding (6.2 rpg), and sits second on the team in steals behind Dunn, who nets 15.2 ppg while pacing the conference in assists (7.5 apg) and thefts (79) while also coming up with 5.6 rpg. Harris (10.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg) is the final double-digit scorer on a team that puts up 70.3 ppg even though only 30.6 percent of its long-range launches find the bottom of the net. Defensively, the Friar permit 65.8 ppg, and they are on the plus-side of the ledger in both rebounding (+3.4) and turnover (+1.2) margin.
Haralds Karlis scored 14 points, Delgado logged a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Khadeen Carrington hit for 13 points as well, all of which was needed for Seton Hall to slip past visiting Creighton last weekend. Whitehead wound up dishing out half of the team's 14 assists, as the Pirates shot 46.6 percent from the floor, knocking down 5-of-11 3-point tries in the process. A 41-31 edge on the boards certainly helped matters, as did the fact that the Bluejays made good on only 40.6 percent of their total shots, despite draining eight treys.
Seton Hall is putting up 68.9 ppg while allowing 67.0 ppg, and the team is being outshot on the average, .423 to .419. The Pirates do however, hit their long-range attempts at a significantly better rate than the opposition (.348 to .284), and they are slightly ahead in the battle on the boards (+1.6). Gibbs (16.7 ppg, 3.7 apg) is the top 3-point shooter in the Big East and one of the best in the country (No. 8), as 44.4 percent of his long-range heaves have been successful, and Delgado (9.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg) ranks first in the league in rebounding. Whitehead nets 12.5 ppg as the only other double-digit scorer on the roster.