NEW YORK (AP) — LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn were two of the Big East’s best players all season. On Thursday, the Providence teammates lived up to the billing and led the Friars to the conference tournament semifinals.
Henton had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Dunn had 17 points and 11 assists to lead fourth-seeded Providence to a 74-57 victory over fifth-seeded St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.
Henton, who led the league in scoring with a 20.1 average, was 7 of 14 from the field, including 3 for 6 from 3-point range. Dunn, the conference co-player of the year and co-defensive player of the year, was 6 for 12 from the field while directing the Friars’ offense and setting up teammates for easy baskets.
“These guys, when they play well, we’re a tough out. If they struggle, we’re going to struggle. I think everybody understands that,” Friars coach Ed Cooley said. “LaDontae kind of does his thing. He’s a junkyard dog and he can do it a lot of different ways. Kris is a maestro and a really hard to guard type of point guard.”
The Friars (22-10), the defending champions, will play top-seeded and fourth-ranked Villanova (30-2) in the semifinals on Friday night.
“We feel like we can play with anybody. We know it’s not going to be easy,” said Henton, like Dunn a first-team All-Big East selection. “It’s going to be a tough matchup. Villanova matches up well with us. So we’ve just got to be prepared mentally for them.”
It was Providence’s first win over the Red Storm (21-11) this season. St. John’s swept the two-game series, winning one game by 13 points, the other by nine.
“I thought today was one of our better games,” Cooley said. “I think St. John’s is playing as anybody in our league, maybe in the country. … This was one of our better defensive games we’ve had all year.”
Rysheed Jordan had 18 points for St. John’s, which had won seven of its last nine to put itself into solid consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“As a group we are disappointed with result today,” St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “Now we’ve got to get ready for our next game.”
The Red Storm couldn’t get any offense going, except for their 7-0 run to start the game. Providence answered that by scoring the next 18 points and the Friars led by double figures for most of the game.
“For the most part, after that 7-0 lead we had, the run they went on, we never really were in contention,” Lavin said.
St. John’s started the game 3 for 17 from the field. The Red Storm went 10:09 without a field goal and fell behind 28-11 with 7 minutes left in the first half.
Meanwhile, Henton and Dunn had the Friars clicking on the offensive end, shooting 46.7 percent from the field (14 of 30) in taking a 40-27 halftime lead. The lead got as high as 19 points as St. John’s, third in the Big East at 35.6 percent from 3-point range, missed nine of its first 10 attempts from behind the arc. St. John’s finished 6 of 21 on 3s while the Friars, at 30.4 percent last in the 10-team league from long range, were 6 of 12.
“We took the shots on offense that helped us with defensive transition,” said Dunn, the first player to ever lead the Big East in assists and steals in the same season. “We made a lot of good buckets. Everybody was swinging the ball. Everybody contributed in the game. So I think that’s what helped us on defense.”
Tyler Harris added 15 points for Providence and Ben Bentil had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
D’Angelo Harrison, one of three 2,000-point scorers in St. John’s history, had seven points on 3-for-15 shooting as the Red Storm shot 31 percent (18 for 58) and finished 14 points below their season average.
St. John’s: The Red Storm haven’t reached the semifinals since 2000, the year of their last championship. … The senior class never won a game in the Big East Tournament despite it being played at Madison Square Garden, one of St. John’s home courts.
“Very disappointed,” said Phil Greene IV, one of the four senior starters. “We wanted to get one. … This game is an open house so we’ve just got to get back to the drawing board.”
Providence: This was the Friars’ fifth straight win over St. John’s in the Big East Tournament, including last year’s quarterfinals. … Providence outrebounded St. John’s 49-36.
Providence dominated St. John’s in the game statistics. The Friars finished up 36-16 in the paint, 17-6 off turnovers, 17-7 on second-chance points and 15-4 on fast break points.
St. John’s: Waiting on an NCAA at-large bid.
Providence: Top-seeded and fourth-ranked Villanova in Friday’s semifinals.
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