UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Forward LaDontae Henton scored a career-high 38 points, including the decisive free throws, leading Providence to a 75-74 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday in the Naismith Bracket final of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-off Tournament at Mohegan Sun Casino Arena.
Henton showed Sunday why he earned the nickname “Buckets” back near his hometown of Lansing, Mich., during AAU basketball with the Michigan Mustangs.
Henton finished 14-of-19 from the field, 4-of-8 from 3. He was a matchup nightmare for Notre Dame when both teams were in the Big East. Not much changed when the Irish left for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Henton made it look easy.
“It wasn’t easy; it was tough,” Henton insisted after nailing the game-winning free throws with 14.8 seconds left. “They were defending me well, but the shot was just falling. Days like this, it’s hard to guard somebody when their shot is falling.”
Guard Jerian Grant’s drive and free throw gave the Irish a 74-73 lead with 26.3 seconds remaining. Henton hit two free throws to make it 75-74 Friars with 14.8 seconds left.
Notre Dame had two looks after Henton’s two free throws but couldn’t convert.
Grant’s wild runner down the lane bounced off the backboard before a scramble for the rebound rolled out of bounds and gave the Irish another chance with five seconds remaining.
A Pat Connaughton fade-away to the right of the lane with two seconds remaining fell short before the final horn.
“They jumped out on Jerian so we were just trying to find the open guy,” Connaughton said.
Connaughton was open, however briefly. But Henton helped seal it on the other end. Despite being late to close out on Connaughton, Henton managed to get partially block the shot.
“I got some ball on that,” Henton said. “I thought he was going to shoot it. He put one dribble in and I was able to recover.”
Considered by his head coach “the ultimate closer,” Grant scored 20 to lead the Irish (4-1). Forward Zach Auguste added 15 points and all five Irish starters scored double figures.
Forward Tyler Harris had 17 points for Providence (5-0).
Notre Dame led by eight with 5:22 left before an 8-0 Providence run tied it at 66 with 3:29 remaining.
“We were up going down the stretch and gotta keep the lead,” said Grant, who scored 11 points the final 8:20. “We gotta get a stop when we need it. We were right there.
We were confident we were going to get the win.”
The second half featured multiple momentum swings and there were 11 ties and 12 lead changes in the game. It was a one-possession game the final 3:54.
“That,” Irish coach Mike Brey said, “was a great college game. In November. We couldn’t get away from them.”
Both teams shot effectively, with Providence hitting 56 percent of its shots from the floor and Notre Dame making 50 percent. The Irish finished with a 29-23 rebounding edge, but two turnovers the final 3:35 were critical.
Notre Dame trailed at halftime for the first time this season, 39-35. The Irish let an old problem creep up — defending the perimeter.
Providence shredded the Notre Dame defense for five first-half 3-pointers, including three from Henton. He led all scorers at the break with 18 and was not bothered by Brey changing looks from man to zone.
The Friars had just one non-3 basket the final nine-plus minutes of the half and then Providence managed only one 3 – the big one from Henton in the closing minute – in the second half.
Friars guard Jalen Lindsey connected on an early 3-pointer but left with a sprained ankle and didn’t return.
Notre Dame’s largest lead was six and took better care of the ball than it had early in the game than it did Saturday against UMass. The Irish had only five turnovers in the first half.
NOTES: Providence swept through the Tip-Off Tournament, defeating beating Binghamton, Navy, Florida State and Notre Dame. The Irish topped Binghamton, Navy and Massachusetts to reach the Tip-Off Tournament finale. … The Friars return to action Friday with a home game against Yale. … The Irish
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