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by Ben Burns - 03/10/2010
So who had Seton Hall -5.5 against Providence Tuesday? Welcome to March Madness.
In a battle of the two worst defensive teams in the Big East, the Pirates took control midway through the first half and went into halftime up 55-39.
Throughout the ragged affair, ESPN’s Jay Bilas, Bill Rafferty and Sean McDonough took turns taking shots at Providence’s absent defense, and for good reason.
Simple pump fakes were resulting in uncontested dunks for the Pirates. The Friars didn’t seem to understand the concept of getting back, and two or three passes usually produced a lay-up for Seton Hall.
With 13:36 to play in the second half, the Pirates were in command, leading 76-47.
"I look up at the scoreboard and we're down 30. What adjustments really can you make at that point?" Providence coach Keno Davis told reporters. "We were just trying to motivate our guys to not end the season like this."
Whatever Davis did, worked. Or maybe the Pirates put it on cruise control. Either way, the Friars began to chip away, although slowly.
Seton Hall still led by 19, 96-77, with five minutes to play. The Pirates had their subs in and didn’t seem worried.
If you bet Seton Hall, hopefully this is the point you switched channels.
The Friars kept coming. The lead was reduced to 15 with three minutes left. It was nine with two minutes.
The Providence press, which had been shredded all game, was suddenly menacing. The Pirates turned the ball over four straight times. All of a sudden, this was six-point game with a minute to play.
"It was kind of like two different games," Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez told reporters. "Sometimes when you get up like that, it's not easy to stay ahead in a game that long. There's a different strategy. You try to use the clock. I maybe subbed a little bit too early. I'm not sure."
The final minute was even more horrific. The Pirates missed five free throws in the final minute and turned it over again. They were very lucky not to go into overtime. Providence guard Duke Mondy had a good look at what would have been a tying 3-pointer with six seconds to play.
Final score: Seton Hall 109, Providence 106. Ug.
Welcome to March Madness.