Seton Hall had not played in 17 days — and it looked like it.
After a lengthy COVD-19-induced layoff, the Pirates returned to the court for their Big East opener looking nothing like the team that had risen to its national ranking of No. 15.
Without top forwards Ike Obiagu and Tyrese Samuel, both sidelined due to the coronavirus, Seton Hall lacked the cohesion and defensive tenacity that had led to big wins over Texas, Michigan and Rutgers.
And No. 21 Providence took advantage. The Friars rode a big 15-0, first-half run to a 70-65 victory Wednesday night in Providence, R.I.
During the long layoff, Seton Hall (9-2, 0-1 Big East) was unable to run full practices, because of a lack of healthy bodies. Due to COVID-19 protocol, the Pirates were without six players Wednesday night. Others had missed time as well.
It was evident. Senior star Jared Rhoden was held to 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting, emblematic of the Pirates’ inaccurate night from the field. They hit just 4 of 19 from long distance.
There were countless unforced turnovers, missed defensive assignments and plenty of rust.
The absence of Samuel and Obiagu was significant. Forwards Nate Watson and Noah Horchler produced a combined 31 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks for Providence (12-1, 2-0).
Horchler, in particular, was instrumental in the victory. With Seton Hall sitting back in a zone, he hit three 3-pointers in that 15-0, game-turning run. Horchler started the second half with a layup and soon Providence was up 13.
Seton Hall did make a frantic final run, ripping off a 13-5 spurt to get within three with 17.3 seconds left, but Al Durham hit four clutch free throws to ice it.
In addition to the missing players, Seton Hall was also without assistant coaches Duane Woodward and Grant Billmeier, along with coordinator of basketball operations Kevin Lynch, due to COVID-19 protocols.