Friar Basketball

Breaking Down a Buzzer Beater in Puerto Rico


This wasn’t the first time Massachusetts forward Terrell Vinson has come through at the buzzer for the Minutemen.  The one-time Providence recruit and former top 100 prospect out of Baltimore helped UMass upset Memphis in December of 2009 at the TD Garden with a make as time expired.

Last season Vinson was nearly a hero once again, drilling what looked to be a game-tying three point shot at the buzzer against LaSalle, only his toe was on the three point line as UMass came up a point short in a game that damaged their surprising tournament hopes in late-February.

It was no surprise that Derek Kellogg put the ball in the hands of his best player in a tie game in the opener of the Puerto Rico Tip-off, yet when Chaz Williams (17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 turnovers) missed a short jumper with two seconds remaining it wasn’t a shocker that Vinson was the one to come up with the big play as time ran out once again.

The 6’7 senior tipped home Williams’ miss with no time remaining on the clock, as Massachusetts broke Providence’s heart, 77-75 — 12 years after the two teams’ last meeting.  Ironically, it was the Friars coming out on top of a game that many felt they stole the year before that over UMass, when junior David Murray made a layup at the buzzer to win it for the Friars.

Playing with just six scholarship players, coming back from a 12 point first half deficit, and leading the game from the 9:43 mark (56-55) until UMass tied it with a three pointer with 1:22 left, the Friars must feel like they had one stolen from them on Thursday night.

It was a gritty effort for the short-handed Friars, who had struggled mightily getting into their offense in the face of UMass’ pressure defense throughout the first half, managing just a single assist over the game’s first 20 minutes, yet they fought through the early adversity and made seemingly every big play in the second half until the closing minutes.

The loss drops Providence to 2-1 on the season as they head into Friday’s consolation game against Penn State.

1. Up four points with under four minutes to play, the last thing anyone in Friartown wanted to hear about was yet another moral victory.  The grit and determination they showed in not only clawing their way back into this one after a dreadful first half, but in eventually taking control of game in the second, was certainly a positive, yet they were unable to  close mainly due to their inability to get key stops late.

Massachusetts scored on six of their final eight possessions, scoring 12 points in the game’s final four minutes, with perhaps the game’s biggest shot coming from Jesse Morgan who canned a three pointer with 1:22 remaining to bring UMass even for the first time in over eight minutes.  Morgan hit four 3 pointers on the night, including two huge ones in the final three minutes.

2. Once again, Bryce Cotton was beyond solid manning the point in the absence of Vincent Council.  The junior played all 40 minutes and only turned the ball over twice in the face of Massachusetts’ pressure defense.

While not his most efficient shooting night from the field (6-16 overall), Cotton scored over 20 points for the third straight game (23), made all eight of his free throw attempts, handed out five assists and hit 3-7 from three point range.

Beyond the statistics, Cotton’s game continues to mature, making key plays in big moments. Two examples:

  • Cotton made a floater with 9:43 to go to give Providence their first lead since the early going, and then found Josh Fortune on a beautiful drive and dish for a corner three pointer to give PC a 60-57 advantage.  The play was one many questioned he could make in taking over for Council.
  • UMass got back within two points at the 3:50 mark, but Cotton kept the Friars lead in tact by selling bumps by overly-aggressive UMass guards on Providence’s next two possessions.  He made all four shots he earned for his effort.  They were momentum-killing plays by the junior.
It shouldn’t gone forgotten that Cotton tweaked his ankle in the first half, but played through it.

3. The growth of Kadeem Batts continues, as the redshirt sophomore had a big first half for the second game in a row.  Three days after a 23 point opening stanza against Bryant, Batts was equally impressive in the first versus Massachusetts — keeping Providence in the game with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Batts finished with 19 points and nine rebounds on 6-8 shooting from the field.  Over his past two games, Batts has shot 18-23 (78%), while grabbing 18 rebounds.

It’s been a tremendous start for a much maligned Friar.

4. First half turning point: A key early sequence, and one Providence hadn’t typically recovered from in their recent history, came with four minutes to play in the first half.  Massachusetts was approaching five minutes without a field goal when Batts drew a charge to prolong their drought.

The defensive spurt triggered a mini-PC run to cut a 12 point deficit to six with just over four minutes to play.

It looked as though Providence would carve it to four following the Batts charge, but LaDontae Henton missed a layup and was blocked at the rim on the follow with four minutes remaining in the first half.

Williams countered by recovering the loose ball and converting a layup on the other end, and on the ensuing possession Providence was whistled for a 10 second violation.

In a matter of 20 seconds a potential four point game turned into an eight point UMass advantage with the chance to push it back to double figures following the turnover.

5. One of the themes coming out of camp was trying to slow Brice Kofane down.  Kofane is an energy player for the Friars, so slowing him down would seem counter-intuitive, but the shot-blocking forward had often been quick to leave his feet on the defensive end and fumbled the ball while rushing on offense a season ago.

While the numbers from Thursday night won’t jump out at you (4 points, 6 rebounds), there are subtle changes in his game that have come from simply slowing down.

He gathered and scored at the rim early in the second half and scored on what most likely would have been a miss last season when Batts found him cutting along the baseline.  All four of his points and five of the six boards came in the second half.

6. LaDontae Henton finished with a double double (13 points, 11 rebounds), but he had opportunities to hit the back-breaing shots that he made a habit of connecting on as a freshman and just simply missed.  The sophomore struggled in all three areas with his shot, going 5-16 from the field, missing all six of his three point attempts, and making only three of his seven foul shots.

Henton is 3-18 from three point range to start the season, but 17-30 from inside the arc.

7. It’s hard to remember Lee Goldsbrough dunking once in his Providence career, but he threw two down on Thursday night.  The first was particularly shocking, as the junior has barely looked at the rim with the ball in his hands this season, but he drove the ball from the top of the key and threw down a bit of a double pump slam in the first half.

In the pre-game feature I noted that he and Kofane were making small, impactful plays early this season, and if the Friars pulled out the victory tonight his run-out and dunk with just over two minutes to go to give Providence a three point lead would have been a sneaky key to victory.  It was PC’s first field goal in over four minutes and it came from straight hustle.

8. What it means: This Providence group has some fight in it.  The shortened rotation is certainly not ideal, but it has forced Cotton into a lead role and nudged Batts into a primary scoring role that might not have been available otherwise.  Both have performed beyond expectations through three games, perhaps Batts even more so.  Few would have expected him to shoot at a near 80% clip on over 20 field goal attempts over the past two games.

Both Kofane and Goldsbrough are playing with more assertiveness.

After a hard-fought game on Thursday night, how this group’s legs hold up over the next two games will be an ongoing question.  Legs didn’t seem to be an issue on Thursday night, as they played far more effectively in the second half than in the first.


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