Story Highlights Include:
- Inability to get stops in the halfcourt killing the Friars
- Cotton scoring 20+ for the sixth straight game
- Batts gives a big effort against a big team
- Video recap featuring Craig Belhumeur
“We will win when we can guard.”
Providence can do a lot of things well. We saw a lot of them throughout Tuesday night’s 68-64 loss to Pittsburgh. Bryce Cotton, leading the Big East in scoring entering the game, was once against spectacular for the Friars. After being held without a point for the game’s first 13 minutes, Cotton split double teams to get himself looks in the paint and drilled four more 3 pointers on his way to a game-high 24 points. He’s now scored over 20 points in Providence’s last six games and has connected on 26 three pointers in seven Big East games.
Vincent Council once again got into the lane in the second half, scoring 11 points on 5-10 shots to go along with seven assists. After the game, Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said he was as good a penetrator as there is in the country.
Providence forced 16 turnovers against a team that takes great care of the ball.
Kadeem Batts was terrific against a huge front court, scoring 17 points on 8-12 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, with five coming on the offensive end.
Speaking of rebounds, the Friars matched a physical Pittsburgh team with 28 on the night, and grabbed two more than them on the offensive end (12-10).
With so much going right and playing in front of a big home crowd at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, the Friars played to their formula for success, but still came up short in the end.
Why? They simply can’t string stops together when they most need them.
When Providence has won against Big East opponents in recent seasons they’ve typically taken advantage of horrible shooting nights by their opponents. The blowout win over Louisville from last year is a great example.
As Cooley noted afterwards, Providence’s offense is at its best when its’ defense is leading to opportunities (“we score when we defend. Great defensive teams score because they score off their defense and that it is how you win”), but even more critical than turning defense into offense for PC will be to find a way to string together stop after stop in the halfcourt set.
The Friars have been a much more effective defensive group when picking up full court and turning the game into a scramble, but inevitably they’ll have to win games by getting stops late in the shot clock and right now they aren’t capable of doing so with consistency.
Cooley spent significant time after the losses to Pittsburgh and Syracuse emphasizing how he needs to teach this team how to win at this level, noting “right now I’ve got to teach our guys how to win in this league and right now I’ve got to do a better job of doing that because we are close, we are just not there.”
Certainly finding a way to get his team to make consecutive stops is priority number one in transitioning from a team that can throw a scare into you on an okay shooting night, and beat you on an off night, versus one that can take your best shot and come out on top.
Like the game against Syracuse, Providence’s defense failed them when they needed it most in the final ten minutes. How many opportunities did PC miss out on to make a late run? They pulled to within 44-40 with 11 minutes to play and then struggled to get the key stop.
- After a Batts layup made it 44-40, Trey Zeigler scored inside to push the lead back to six.
- Council answered 25 seconds later only to see Lamar Patterson connect on a layup on the other end to push it to six once again.
- Council brought Providence to within four – the third straight possession in which PC got a field goal to cut it to four – with 9:31 remaining, but Pitt got another layup, this time by Steven Adams to make it 50-44.
- 25 seconds later LaDontae Henton made a baseline jumper, and for the fourth straight possession PC cut the lead to four. When Adams badly missed a short jumper Talib Zanna was there to clear it up, getting to the free throw line to pump the lead back to five. It was the fourth possession in a row in which Providence needed a stop to give themselves a chance to get it to a one possession game and came up short.
- Both teams exchanged misses on their ensuing trips and when Henton canned an open three at the top of the key it was suddenly a 51-49 game with over seven minutes left.
- Pitt countered with a momentum-killing three by Durand Johnson, and after Council scored once again the Panthers got a Tray Woodall jumper to take a 56-51 lead with 6:16 left. Providence was scoring at will against the best defensive team in the league, but just couldn’t find a way to slow them on the other end.
- Pittsburgh then did what PC was unable to, holding the Friars without a field goal for the next 4:16 on the clock. By then a deep Cotton jumper served to only bring PC to within eight at 63-55 with 2:00 to go. Providence made a desperate run late, and got to within two after Cotton drained a very difficult three with 11 seconds remaining, but they’d simply been unable to get over the hump due to their inability to get stops when their offense gave them a shot.
Providence had a huge opportunity to get the key stop in the waning moments, trailing by three with under 30 seconds to play, but Woodall freed himself for a relatively easy jump shot with 22 seconds left which he promptly knocked down.
Cooley was happy with his team’s determination afterwards, if not thrilled with the defensive execution, “they have guys other than (Steven) Adams that have played in Big East games and we have some young guys that haven’t. They did have decent offensive execution. You know they passed the ball really well. They are a good basketball team. I think they were very, very fortunate to get a win in here today. A lot of that was our lack of execution.
“We found a way to lose today. We really did. Credit them, they earned it. I’ve got to do a better job with the group.”
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Craig Belhumeur provided his post game video recap, which includes a rundown of Pitt’s late execution as well as highlights from the press conferences of both Jamie Dixon and Ed Cooley.