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Bryce Cotton keeps Providence on the right path with win over Seton Hall

Feb 28, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

Bryce Cotton Getty Images

Providence and Seton Hall got off to a slow start offensively, combining for three points in the first four-plus minutes of Friday night’s game in Newark.

In the second half, the Friars leader, Bryce Cotton, caught fire, scoring 17 of his 24 in the second half as PC won its second straight Big East game with a 74-69 win over the Pirates.

Cotton was one of four Friars in double figures with Kadeem Batts following with 14 points, 11 rebounds and LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris with 13 and 11, respectively. Seton Hall, playing without Fuquan Edwin, was led by Sterling Gibbs with 20. Gene Teague added 17 and grabbed 12 boards.

This win doesn’t pad the Friars resume by any means. But Providence did avoid a ugly late-season loss, and remain on the right side of the bubble for the moment. Two weeks ago, PC lost what would have been a marquee victory over Villanova, as Ryan Arcidiacono led the Wildcats out of the Dunkin’ Donut Center with a double overtime victory.

That loss meant Providence had little room for error in the team’s last four regular season games, three of which were on the road. And so far, the Friars have rallied off back-to-back victories. Those wins were over two of the three worst teams in the Big East, though, the Friars next two games will be much more difficult.

Marquette heads to Villanova on Sunday before heading to Providence on Tuesday. Currently the Golden Eagles half a game ahead of the Friars in the conference standings. Providence ends the regular season, in Omaha, taking on Doug McDermott and Creighton. The Bluejays are undefeated at home this season.

Providence is looking for the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2004. Plenty of teams are in the same position as PC, toeing the line between tournament team and NIT bound, and some have leapfrogged the Friars this week. Arkansas swept Kentucky on Thursday night. The Razorbacks moved into the projected First Four, and Providence went from Dayton to the First Five Teams Left Out in the latest College Basketball Talk Bracketology.

March begins at midnight, giving Providence 16 days to strengthen its case and hear its name called as one of 68 teams on Selection Sunday.