In re-watching Providence and Syracuse from Wednesday night, this was a more encouraging effort from the Friars. Admittedly, Syracuse struggled from beyond the three point range, but the two teams played relatively even for the duration.
Obviously, Providence’s inability to keep the Orange off of the offensive glass jumped out the second time around, but there were plenty of positives as well, as Sidiki Johnson rebounded in traffic better than anyone on this roster has all season, and Vincent Council looked closer to what we saw a year ago than he has all season.
In the end, a pair of slumps and key offensive rebounds did Providence in.
Some takeaways from watching the game again:
1. Johnson was extremely active early, and had what could have been a huge first half derailed when he picked up his second foul at the 13:42 mark in trying to keep an offensive rebound alive. He had four offensive rebounds and a block in the game’s first six minutes against a big Syracuse team.
2. The Friars missed out on a big opportunity mid-way through the first half. Riding an 8-0 run behind a pair of Bryce Cotton three pointers and a LaDontae Henton layup, Providence suddenly led 18-16. Council threw a pretty no-look pass to Henton on a breakout, which Henton bobbled away, leading to a Syracuse break the other way. This led to a dunk and a foul giving Syracuse the lead back at 19-18 with 10:30 remaining.
3. Cotton followed this play by continuing his best offensive outburst of the season, nailing two more three pointers and a breakout layup as part of an 11-2 run capped by a Josh Fortune three that gave Providence a 29-21 lead with 6:55 to play.
4. The Providence coaching staff came into this one hoping to make Michael Carter-Williams a scorer, rather than a play-maker, and he hit three of the biggest shots of the game. The first came after this 11-2 run. He pulled up off of the bounce, made a mid-range jump shot and was fouled. The three point play brought Syracuse back to within five.
When Providence pushed the lead back to nine on a pair of beautiful looks from Council to Henton, Carter-Williams drained a three point shot that Jim Boeheim said was one of the biggest of the game to make it 33-28 with 3:39 left.
Then in the second half, PC had cut Syracuse’s lead to 51-50 after a pair of Johnson free throws, but MCW stepped into a three from the top of the key and pushed their advantage back to four at 54-50.
5. After the DePaul game, Demons head coach Oliver Purnell spoke of the importance of closing a half well and coming out of the locker room strong. The Friars struggled to close out each half against Syracuse.
Henton’s layup with 4:49 left gave PC a nine point advantage, but they went scoreless the remainder of the first and Syracuse got it down to a manageable three point deficit by halftime.
The Friars really struggled to score from the field in the second half when it mattered most. Council made a layup with 10:33 left to tie it at 47, but the Friars would make only one shot from the field over the next 9:23 on the clock – and that was Council’s desperation three with the shot clock running down to cut it to 54-53.
The great teams get stops when they need to. Providence had made nine straight shots at one point in the first half, but couldn’t find the range when they needed to most.
6. Providence had a fast break in the second half in which the ball was advanced 94 feet while only being bounced once. Kadeem Batts saved it at the baseline, found Cotton under the hoop who quickly outletted to Council near mid-court. Council took a dribble and lobbed a pass to Henton at the rim. Very nice.
7. It wasn’t just that offensive rebounds killed the Friars, but when they occurred. With SU leading 54-53 with just under six minutes to go the Friars got a stop, but CJ Fair grabbed the offensive board and laid it back in – 56-53 Cuse.
On their next possession, Fair went over two Friars who failed to block him out for a tip dunk off of a Carter-Williams miss to push the lead to 58-53 with 4:47 to go.
A pair of Cotton free throws kept PC within three at 58-55, but the Orange came up with an offensive rebound on their third straight possession, this time it was Fair throwing up an airball that Rakeem Christmas grabbed and laid in just before the shot clock expired to make it 60-55 with 3:56 left.
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And now, Providence versus Syracuse in 7 Minutes.