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Friars survive Seton Hall, advance to first Big East title game in 20 years

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LaDonte Henton sure picked the right time to have his best game of the season. The 6-6 junior forward from Lansing, Mich., scored a season-best 26 points—including 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the three-point arc—and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Providence College Friars to an 80-74 victory over Seton Hall in a Big East Semifinal match-up at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. Bryce Cotton also recorded a double-double with an 18-point, 10-assist effort—including 7-for-8 from the charity stripe—and 6-9 sophomore forward Tyler Harris popped in 17 for the Friars, who improved to 22-11.

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Fuquan Edwin led Seton Hall with 20 points, while Sterling Gibbs added 13 points and Eugene Teague scored 11 for the Pirates.

After Seton Hall broke out to a 5-0 lead to start the game, the Friars took their first lead, 9-8, when Henton knocked down his first trey 4:04 into the contest. Providence appeared to take charge with a 12-0 run midway through the half that gave the Friars a 25-14 lead 8:30 in, but the Pirates returned the favor with a 9-3 run to end the half and go into the locker room trailing by just four, 38-34, at intermission. The Friars scorched the nets in the first half, hitting 12 of 24 (50 percent) from the field, and 10 of 14 (71.4 percent) from the charity stripe.

The Pirates closed to within one point, 46-45, when Gibbs knocked home a trey with 13:24 left in regulation, but a three-pointer by Harris followed by back-to-back treys from Henton gave the Friars an 11-point lead, 64-53, with 7:18 remaining in regulation.

But the pesky Pirates, who hadn't lost to the Friars in the Big East Tournament since 1985—and had won five straight—wouldn't go away. After Brian Oliver drained a 3-pointer from 23 feet out, the Friars led by just four, 78-74, with nine ticks left on the clock.

And that's where things got very interesting.

Cotton was called for an offensive foul, turning the ball over to the Pirates with just eight seconds remaining in regulation. But after Edwin missed a layup that would have cut the Providence lead to two with just four seconds remaining, Josh Fortune, Thursday's hero, came down with the rebound, was fouled, and calmly put down two from the charity stripe to wrap things up for the Friars.

The Friars now advance to the Big East Championship Game where they will take on Creighton, 86-78 winners over Xavier in Friday's second semifinal, on Saturday. This will be just the second Big East Championship Game the Friars have played in program history. In their first appearance, Providence topped Georgetown 74-64 in 1994.

“I remember when Providence College played in that game,” said Friars' head coach Ed Cooley, himself a Providence native. “I think I was just graduating from school, and I was really happy for our city and for our state.

“But that was then,” continued Cooley. “This a new era. This is a new Big East. And we're really fortunate to be here because there's a lot of teams that would love to be sitting in this game tomorrow, and we're one of the last ones standing.”

This will also the first Big East Championship game for Creighton, the No. 14-ranked team in the country. The Blue Jays, who are seeded No. 2 in the tournament, joined the Big East this season after coming over from the Missouri Valley Conference, where they won the conference tourney last year.

Tip-off is slated for 8:30 p.m., and the game will be televised live from Madison Square Garden on Fox Sports 1.

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