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Seton Hall blows huge lead, but holds off Providence

Seton Hall did everything it could to give away the game.

But despite the clumsy turnovers, the ill-advised fouls and the Pirates' missed free throws down the stretch, Providence somehow failed to take advantage of the missteps.

Seton Hall, which led by 29 in the second half, left the door wide open for a Friars upset. But Providence freshman Duke Mondy missed a three-pointer in the final seconds and 10th-seeded Seton Hall escaped with a 109-106 victory over the 15th-seeded Friars in the first round of the Big East Tournament at the Garden last night.

The Pirates (19-11), who were led by Herb Pope's career-high 27 points and 11 rebounds, will face seventh-seeded Notre Dame Wednesday night.

Jordan Theodore matched a career high with 21 points and had six assists for Seton Hall. But Jamine Peterson, who had 38 points and 16 rebounds, sparked a late Friars' run that cut the deficit to three with 7.5 seconds remaining.

"The first half, we jumped on 'em," said Seton Hall guard Jeremy Hazell, who had 18 points. "But the last 10 minutes, they got it rolling . . . Providence is a great team. You never know what's going to happen in this league."

Despite winning seven of their last nine, the Pirates are one of several bubble teams heading into the NCAAs. After finishing 9-9 in conference play, the Pirates need more than just a first-round win in the Big East Tournament to get a bid. They need to defeat the Irish, whom they beat earlier this season.

But even with a win Wednesday night, the Pirates' latest second-half collapse may hurt them on Selection Sunday. Seton Hall followed its familiar script: jump ahead early, then break down late.

"We didn't close the door," coach Bobby Gonzalez said.

Still, he seemed fairly confident his team would receive an NCAA Tournament bid. "We have 19 wins, no bad losses,'' he said. "We beat Notre Dame at our place and people are saying they're in."

South Florida 58, DePaul 49: Dominique Jones had 20 points and nine rebounds as the ninth-seeded Bulls got their first Big East Tournament win. South Florida (20-11) will face No. 8 Georgetown Wednesday. Mike Mercer added 14 points and five rebounds for the Bulls (20-11). Will Walker led the Blue Demons (8-23) with 20 points.

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