PROVIDENCE — Their first game as a nationally-ranked team in nearly six years did not disappoint.
With Noah Horchler on fire from the outside and Jared Bynum providing a major spark off the bench, No. 21 Providence College dispatched No. 15 Seton Hall, 70-65, before a Wednesday night crowd of 12,069 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Horchler was 5 of 6 from 3-point territory on his way to producing 17 points and 13 rebounds. Coming off the bench once again after missing several games with an ankle injury, Bynum supplied 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting along with four assists.
Providence (12-1, 2-0 Big East) led this one by as many as 13 points before surviving a few hairy moments during the closing stages.
Seton Hall (9-2, 0-1) closed to within five, 66-61,, with 53.8 seconds left and trailed by three, 66-63, after Alex Yetna scored two of his 13 points with 17 seconds left. The game was sealed when Al Durham swished four free throws in as many opportunities on his way to finishing with 12 points.
“When you play in this league, you know you’re going to be in for a tough game every single night,” PC coach Ed Cooley said.
After notching nine points and six rebounds at UConn, Bynum followed up with an even better showing en route to helping the Friars pick up their fifth Quad 1 win. His defining moment came against the Pirates came when he beat the shot clock for a make that made it 61-50 with 4:37 remaining.
“I’m playing with a lot of confidence … being around great players and a great coaching staff,” Bynum said. “Even when I was out, I was watching film and being active in practice to stay engaged. My teammates and coaches trust me at the end of games to show what I can do.”
A good amount of time elapsed since the last time the Pirates and Friars hit the hardwood. PC’s last game was Dec. 18 – a four-point road win – while Seton Hall was idle even longer. You have to go back to Dec. 12 to find the last time when the Pirates were in action.
Given the lengthy layoff on both sides, it was expected both teams would struggle coming out of the gate. That proved to be the case until Seton Hall strung together a 7-2 run that resulted in a 22-19 lead for the visitors.
It then became Horchler’s universe. His 3-pointer put the Friars up, 24-22. It proved to be a pivotal sequence as the home team would not trail over the final 24 minutes, 48 seconds.
Horchler was just getting started. He added two more 3s and when Watson and Bynum finished at the rim, PC enjoyed a 15-0 run that had the Dunk rocking and the Pirates running for cover.
It ended up being a nine-point margin in PC’s favor at halftime, but somehow, the advantage felt greater than 36-27 because of Horchler’s efficiency from beyond the arc.
“His parents came to town for the game. We might be putting them on a jet every game,” Cooley said. “Most of the time, the average fan looks at how many points you score. The eye said that defensively, he bothered a lot of shots around the rim. He was more than due to make some shots. Today was his day.”
PC started the second half with a strong uppercut that pushed the lead back to double digits, which is where it stood following the 15-0 blitzing. Horchler finished strong inside and Durham followed to extend the lead to 40-27. From there, it became a matter of stringing enough stops to not sweat it out down the stretch.
A 3-pointer coming out of a timeout by A.J. Reeves (11 points) meant that the Pirates would have to dig deep once again after falling into a 64-54 hole with 3:20 remaining.
The Pirates were without two of their better interior players in Ike Obiago and Tyrese Samuel. In virus protocol and missing Wednesday’s game for the Friars were Brycen Goodine and Matteus Case. Providence was also without a member of the coaching staff as well as a trainer.
Nate Watson (14 points, seven rebounds) gutted it out after bruising his calf late in the first half.
“He’s a tough kid who wants to play,” Cooley said.