NEW YORK â€” In some ways it was an ending, as in the end of the season for Providence College. In other respects, Tuesday nightâ€™s 79-47 bludgeoning at the hands of Seton Hall in opening round of the Big East Tournament can be viewed as the official jumping-off point to the Ed Cooley era.
Cooleyâ€™s first season at PC ended in futile fashion, his club suffering a 32-point defeat that goes in the books as the largest loss margin for the Friars in their Big East tourney history. Providence has now dropped 14 of its last 16 conference tournament games.
Cooley cannot go back, take a dry eraser to the 2011-12 season and start anew. Nor does he probably want to. After watching his short-handed unit fizzle out under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, the PC head coach seemed more than ready to turn the page and start making plans for next season.
â€śIâ€™m exciting about our future but as far as our present, weâ€™ve got to make some adjustments,â€ť Cooley said. â€śWe need to continue to add depth to our frontcourt and backcourt. I like the guys who have committed to us but recruiting is an everyday process for us. When I go to sleep, I think of recruiting. When I wake up, I think of recruiting. Recruiting is the way to build a program."
Added junior Vincent Council, â€śEveryone has to work on their game so hopefully we donâ€™t have to play on Tuesday night next year. We want to be playing on Thursday [better known as quarterfinal day in the Big East Tournament].â€ť
The win enabled Seton Hall (20-11) to keep its faint NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Senior point guard Jordan Theodore led the Piratesâ€™ sweet symphony with a 13-point, 13-assist output with Herb Pope and Brandon Mobley sharing team- and game-high honors with 16 points apiece.
Seton Hall, the No. 10 seed, advances to play No. 7 seed Louisville Wednesday night.
PCâ€™s Council endured a tough night, finishing with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting while racking up more turnovers (six) than assists (five). LaDontae Henton (14 points) and Bryce Cotton (10 points) were the lone Friars to post double figures. The pair combined to make 7-of-25 shots as collectively PC shot just 27 percent.
â€śI thought it was more of what we were doing offensively because we had open shots,â€ť said Cooley when asked if the type of zone Seton Hall threw at PC was a key factor. â€śWe have seen zone all year. When you look at our guys who normally shoot the ball, LaDontae and Bryce are 40 percent shooters from 3-point range. We just missed a lot of shots. That had a lot to do with it.â€ť
Many of the same issues that plagued Cooleyâ€™s Friars during a 15-17 campaign surfaced one final time. â€śPlaying a really small lineup and a small group for multiple minutes â€¦ it seemed like it all caught up to us at the worst possible time at a great place to play,â€ť said the coach.
That maybe true, but Tuesday night saw Providence struggle immensely when it came defending ball screens, a problem that has nothing do with how many players a coach relies on. Seton Hall seemingly ran pick-and-pop plays every time down with Theodore either finding Pope cutting along the baseline or kicking the ball back out to an open shooter.
â€śWeâ€™ve tried to mask a lot of shortcomings with our crew,â€ť Cooley stated. â€śI think all coaches are concerned about ball-screen defense, especially in this league when youâ€™re facing the best guards in the country night in and night out. (Seton Hall) really exposed that with some of our guys. Hopefully we can get better at it.â€ť
Tuesday night wasnâ€™t all bad news. PC roared out to a 9-0 lead before spending the final 15 minutes of the opening half in a deep, deep slumber. Seton Hall shook off the slow start and responded with what a quick-striking 26-5 run that allowed the Pirates take control. The lead reached as high as 15 points (34-19) with 1:32 left in the half before Seton Hall went into the break up 36-23.
With Louisville head coach Rick Pitino and son Richard Jr. looking on from the second row of media seats at center court, the Friars struggled to the tune of 25 percent (8-of-32) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. Things werenâ€™t much better in the second half as the Pirates opened up a 20-point lead (50-30) with 14:45 to play. The score read 62-38 when Kadeem Batts fouled out with 8:44 remaining.
Asked how quickly he plans on moving past the â€śNightmare on 33rd Street,â€ť Cooley answered, â€śIâ€™m never going to get past it. I didnâ€™t come here to lose. Iâ€™m never going to get past it. Weâ€™ll move on. We wonâ€™t forget about it, but Iâ€™ve got to do a better job building our program.
â€śWe picked the worst time to have our worst game. You know, this is a learning experience for our program as we continue to move forward.â€ť