FRIARS IN BET CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

LaDontae Henton

Providence was not a popular pick to make a run to the Big East Finals, but there they will be on Saturday night, under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. The Friars knocked off a pesky Seton Hall team 80-74 and will face Creighton in their first Big East Final since 1994.

While the win over Seton Hall isn't worth a lot on the overall tournament resume, this win is worth a lot to Providence nonetheless. The Friars needed to avoid what would have been considered a "bad loss", simply because Seton Hall's RPI was outside the Top 100 teams. With the win, Providence now has a good chance to make the NCAA tournament field either as the Big East Champion or as an At-Large Selection.

The game Friday night wasn't exactly a walk in the park just because Seton Hall wasn't as dangerous as Villanova could have been. The referees called an inordinate number of fouls, and the Friars with their short bench had to adjust accordingly.

"In the first half, a couple guys got into foul trouble, but we adjusted to it and a senior like Brice Kofane comes in and gave us great minutes, said LaDontae Henton, who was the player of the game with an impressive 24 points and 14 rebounds. Henton was a monster on the glass, and seemingly hit a big shot every time Providence needed a big bucket.

The Pirates have been playing hard this week at the Garden, and had been on a roll knocking off both Butler and Villanova. However, Providence is a tough team themselves, and they appeared determined to not be outworked by Seton Hall, whom they outrebounded 37-31. "We take our coach's attitude", said Henton. "Everything since I've been here has been about toughness, and especially in the Big East, it's not just about talent that wins you games, it's toughness."

Head Coach Ed Cooley was profoundly proud of what his team has accomplished to this point. "I'm just really proud of this group because I remember being in the same building some three years ago, and that same team beat us by 31 points. So when you reflect and see how far you've come in a short period, it's all about these players and their effort and time."

Bryce Cotton bounced back from a very tough outing versus St. John's to score 18 points and dish out 10 assists. While we've yet to see Cotton's best at this tournament, he was solid and played a big role in closing out the game for Providence and running the offense well.

Despite battling foul trouble once again, Tyler Harris also had a very good performance against Seton Hall. The redshirt sophomore had a big stretch in the second half, scoring 14 points in the second half minutes and totally 17 for the game. That was a necessity given that Kadeem Batts and Carson Desroisers were limited to only 17 and 11 minutes on the floor respectively.

Batts spoke about how thankful he was for his teammates and the opportunity to play for a Big East Championship as a senior. "I've always had a great feeling about this team because we're so tight as a unit. We always lift each other up through the hard times. I hope we can go out as champions."

The Friars tipoff for the Big East Championship Saturday at 8:30 pm.

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