NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Providence senior point guard Vincent Council injured his leg two months ago, an injury that forced him to the sidelines for 10 games. He only recently returned to the lineup, still not 100 percent physically.
But Council certainly made his presence felt Sunday, scoring 11 points and dishing out eight assists, leading Providence to a crucial 67-55 win over Seton Hall.
‘‘Vince is our leader and he controls everything,’’ said Providence coach Ed Cooley, who saw his team grab its first Big East victory after three losses. ‘‘He played today the way I expected him to play. His leadership is a key to this team. He really controlled the game.’’
More importantly, Council found Friars’ leading scorer Bryce Cotton enough so Cotton could score 23 points, 13 coming in the first half. Cotton also grabbed nine rebounds.
‘‘I definitely look for Cotton because he’s our leading scorer and playmaker,’’ Council said. ‘‘Every day, we talk about being the team’s 1-2 punch. We talk about how well he runs off the ball and how he makes it easy for me to get him the ball. We have a good chemistry on and off the court.’’
The win enabled the Friars to improve to 9-7 overall. The Pirates (12-5, 1-3) lost their third straight Big East game after winning the conference opener against DePaul on Jan. 2.
‘‘This win was big for our confidence,’’ Council said. ‘‘We got a good win on the road against a good team that plays well in their own building. It’s definitely a relief to get the first one.’’
The Friars took total command of the game with a 22-5 first-half run, keeping the Pirates off the scoreboard for almost a full six minutes. Providence led by as many as 18 as the outcome was never in serious doubt after the first half.
LaDontae Henton added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Friars and Kadeem Batts chipped in 11 points.
‘‘We have been going through so many different changes with our lineup,’’ Cooley said. ‘‘We had so many pieces missing. We put it all together today and got the win.’’
The Friars won the game despite shooting just 36 percent from the floor (22 of 61), 27 percent from 3-point range (5 for 18) and 62 percent from the free-throw line (18 of 29).
But the Friars were aided by 22 offensive rebounds and 17 Seton Hall turnovers, 14 of which came in the first half.
‘‘In this league, you’re not going to win when you give up 22 offensive rebounds and turn it over as much as we did,’’ Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. ‘‘We’re a little beat down, but that’s no excuse for coming out and not competing, especially off the boards.’’
Seton Hall was paced by Fuquan Edwin, who finished with17 points, although he was plagued by foul trouble the entire game. Haralds Karlis had a season-high 11 points.
The Friars put the defensive clamps down on the Pirates in the first half. Cotton had six points during a 10-0 spurt, doing a variety of things like an offensive tip-in and a corner shot off the backboard.
‘‘We wanted to pick up the tempo,’’ Cooley said. ‘‘We hadn’t been able to play at that tempo when we only had six scholarship players. It was also a big point of emphasis to get on the backboard. If we played defense and got on the glass, it would give us a decent chance to win.’’
Seton Hall made a bit of a run, thanks to the aggressive play of Karlis off the bench. Karlis had two conventional three-point plays during a stretch in which the Pirates climbed to within 28-19.
But the Friars outscored Seton Hall 10-2 over the final 4:43 to take a commanding 38-22 lead at halftime.
At one point of the first half, the Pirates had taken just 15 shots, because they committed an astounding 14 turnovers, many of which were unforced.
‘‘We had two really big turnovers where we just didn’t catch the ball and that deflated us,’’ Willard said.
The Pirates were also hurt by two early fouls committed by Brandon Mobley, who later left the game with a dislocated right shoulder — the same one he had surgery on last summer.
‘‘We'll know more after the MRI tomorrow (Monday),’’ Willard said. ‘‘But it doesn’t look good. I have no idea what we'll do for next game.’’
Tom Maayan nailed a 3-pointer, then made a driving layup with 11:02 left in the second half, bringing the Pirates to within 49-40, the closest they had been since early in the first half.
But Cotton hit a long 3-pointer with 6:54 left, pushing the Providence lead to 58-44 and the Friars coasted from there.
‘‘We’re not going to be pretty,’’ Cooley said. ‘‘But we’re going to win some games. I know it.’’