Theodore, Seton Hall cruise past Providence 79-47
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
By MIKE FITZPATRICK
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) Jordan Theodore went behind the back, threw some alley-oops and bounced a no-look beauty.
Seton Hall is still trying to play its way into the NCAA tournament, but the Pirates' slick-passing point guard already looks the part.
Theodore put on an impressive show of sweet passes and Seton Hall routed Providence 79-47 in the first round of the Big East tournament Tuesday night, a crucial victory for the Pirates' postseason hopes.
The senior guard set a career high with 13 assists to go with 13 points, and freshman reserve forward Brandon Mobley scored a career-best 16 as the 10th-seeded Pirates (20-11) rebounded from a 28-point blowout at last-place DePaul in their regular-season finale Saturday.
"I hope they've seen that the Pirates (are) not the team that was at DePaul and that we're a good basketball team, and that we deserve to get in," Theodore said.
Herb Pope added 16 points for Seton Hall, which fell behind 9-0 before dominating the rest of the way to reach 20 wins for the first time since 2003-04.
"We've been a very good basketball team all year long for two reasons: Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope," Pirates coach Kevin Willard said. "They've led us both on and off the court, and I've said it a million times: We can only go as far as these two guys go. When they play that dominating, I don't think there's too many people that can beat us."
Next up, a much tougher test Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden against No. 7 seed Louisville. The Pirates lost at home to the Cardinals 60-51 in their only meeting this season on Jan. 28.
"I think we've got to get everybody involved," Theodore said. "The last go around we played them, I took too many shots and I didn't get guys involved enough. I think that's going to be the key for us tomorrow, and just playing great defense like we did tonight."
LaDontae Henton had 14 points to lead the 15th-seeded Friars (15-17), who lost 15 of their final 19 games.
Providence has dropped four straight Big East tournament games and nine of 10 since 2003. Unable to solve Seton Hall's zone, the Friars shot a miserable 27 percent from the field (15 for 56), including 19 percent from 3-point range (4 of 21).
"I thought we picked the worst time to have the worst game of our season. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong," first-year Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "I thought we looked tired, and I don't know why."
Sitting precariously on the NCAA tournament bubble, the Pirates began the day ranked 60th in the RPI. They are looking for their first NCAA bid since 2006.
The lopsided defeat at DePaul cost them a .500 conference record and a first-round bye in the Big East tournament, but Seton Hall bounced back emphatically Tuesday, shooting 56 percent (28 of 50) to win for the fifth time in 14 games.
"Our total body of work is pretty darned good, and I think I have two of the better seniors in the country," Willard said.
Mobley, who was averaging 5.0 points per game, shot 6 for 7 from the field and 2 of 2 at the free throw line. He hit both 3-point tries and grabbed nine rebounds.
Theodore, selected second-team all-conference, finished one assist shy of the Big East tournament record and committed only one turnover. Playing with style and flair, he dominated Vincent Council in their matchup of standout point guards.
Council, who was third-team all-Big East, finished with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting. He had five assists and six turnovers while playing all 40 minutes for the sixth game in a row.
With his team up by 24 midway through the second half, Theodore smiled and shook his head after drawing a second consecutive offensive foul on Council, a junior from Brooklyn who led the league in assists the past two seasons.
The only time Seton Hall enjoyed a bigger blowout in the Big East tournament was a 103-70 victory over Syracuse in the 1993 championship game.
"They were better than us at every single position," Cooley said. "They played with a sense of purpose. I think they're a team that deserves to be in the NCAA tournament."
Providence got within 10 early in the second half before Theodore keyed the 10-0 run that put the game away. He hit Pope on a slick pick-and-roll pass for a three-point play, pumping his fist hard after the whistle, then dished to Fuquan Edwin for a fast-break layup and a 3-pointer.
Theodore added an alley-oop pass to Edwin and a behind-the-back look to Pope for another basket that made it 54-32 with 13:28 remaining. Theodore went to the bench with 3:27 left, and Willard emptied his bench.
Perhaps still stunned by the DePaul debacle, Seton Hall went scoreless for the initial 5 minutes and gave up the first nine points of the game before it finally regrouped and took control. Mobley scored seven and Aaron Cosby hit two of Seton Hall's four 3s in a 21-3 run.
"It was 9-0, all I kept thinking in my head is that it's going to be all right. We're going to be fine," Theodore said. "We're going to knock down some shots when we get them, and we've just got to get stops."
Providence missed its first eight 3-point attempts until Council connected with 3:50 left in the first half to cut it to 30-19. The Pirates, meanwhile, were 5 for 10 from long range during that span.
Updated March 6, 2012