NEW YORK -- Jordan Theodore put on a show of slick passing and Seton Hall routed Providence 79-47 in the first round of the Big East tournament Tuesday night, a crucial victory for the Pirates' NCAA tournament hopes.
The senior guard set a career high with 13 assists to go with 13 points, and freshman forward Brandon Mobley scored a career-high 16 off the bench as the 10th-seeded Pirates (20-11) rebounded from a 28-point blowout at last-place DePaul in their regular-season finale Saturday.
Herb Pope added 16 points for Seton Hall, which fell behind 9-0 in this one before dominating the rest of the way to reach 20 wins for the first time since 2003-04.
Next up, a much tougher test Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden against No. 7 seed Louisville.
LaDontae Henton had 14 points to lead the 15th-seeded Friars (15-17), who lost 15 of their final 19 games.
Providence has lost four straight Big East tournament games since its last victory in 2009 against DePaul, the school's lone win in this event since 2003. The Friars shot a miserable 27 percent from the field (15 for 56), including 19 percent from 3-point range (4 of 21).
Sitting precariously on the NCAA tournament bubble, the Pirates began the day ranked 60th in the RPI. They are looking for their first NCAA bid since 2006.
The lopsided defeat at DePaul cost them a .500 conference record and a first-round bye in the Big East tournament, but Seton Hall bounced back emphatically Tuesday to win for the fifth time in 14 games.
Mobley, who was averaging 5.0 points per game, shot 6 for 7 from the field and 2 of 2 at the free throw line. He hit both 3-point tries and grabbed nine rebounds.
Theodore, selected second-team all-conference, set a school record for assists in a Big East tournament game. Playing with style and flair, he dominated Vincent Council in their matchup of standout point guards.
Council, who was third-team all-Big East, finished with seven points on 2-of-13 shooting. He had five assists and six turnovers while playing all 40 minutes for the sixth game in a row.
With his team up by 24 midway through the second half, Theodore smiled and shook his head after drawing a second consecutive foul on Council, a junior from Brooklyn who led the league in assists the past two seasons.
Providence got within 10 early in the second half before Theodore keyed the 10-0 run that put the game away. He hit Pope on a slick pick-and-roll pass for a three-point play, pumping his fist hard after the whistle, then dished to Fuquan Edwin for a fast-break layup and a 3-pointer.
Theodore added an alley-oop pass to Edwin and a behind-the-back look to Pope for another basket that made it 54-32 with 13:28 remaining. Theodore went to the bench with 3:27 left, and Pirates coach Kevin Willard emptied his bench.
Perhaps still stunned by the DePaul debacle, Seton Hall gave up the first nine points of the game to the Friars before it finally regrouped and took control. Mobley scored seven points and Aaron Cosby hit two of Seton Hall's four 3s in a 21-3 run.
Providence missed its first eight 3-point attempts until Council connected with 3:50 left in the first half to cut it to 30-19. The Pirates, meanwhile, were 5 for 10 from long range during that span.
Seton Hall held Providence to 25 percent shooting in the first half (8 for 32) and its bench outscored the Friars' reserves 17-2. Mobley had 11 points and five rebounds off the pine to help the Pirates take a 36-23 lead into the break.
Two years ago, with the same seeds in the same time slot, these teams played a wild game that turned into one for the record book. Providence trailed by 29 with 13:36 left before a furious rally gave the Friars a chance for a 3-pointer to tie at the buzzer, but freshman Duke Mondy missed and the Pirates held on for a 109-106 win.
It was the most combined points in a Big East tournament game that didn't go to overtime.