Friar Basketball

Gutsy Friars Outlast Johnnies

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Bryce Cotton overcame a poor shooting first half scoring 19 of his game high 24 points in the second in leading the Friars to a 62-59 victory over St. John’s. Providence has now won six of its last seven games as they head into Tuesday’s matchup against Seton Hall at the Dunkin Donuts Center.  PC is 8-8 in the conference and could finish as high as seventh if they win their final two regular season games.

Chairmen of the Boards

The Friars were once again very tough on the boards as they out-rebounded the Johnnies 47-38. Kris Dunn, in particular, came up huge on the backboards finishing with 12 rebounds (nine in the first half alone). Providence may be small up front, but LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, and Dunn use their interior quickness to help them out-rebound taller and more physical opponents.

The Home Run Hitter

In his post game press conference St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin compared great outside shooters like Cotton to home run hitters in baseball. No matter how many times a home run hitter strikes out they have to keep on swinging for the fences because that is what they do best, according to Lavin. Likewise, a great shooter needs to keep on shooting no matter how many shots he has already missed.

In the first half Cotton was only 2-7 from the field (1-6 from the three point line). Thank God he did not stop shooting. Friar fans expect Cotton to catch fire during a stretch of almost every game. Last night it was crunch time as Cotton scored 16 points in the last nine minutes in what was truly the difference in the game.

Afterwards Cotton said, “You are going to have nights where you can’t hit the broad side of a barn, but Coach and my teammates kept encouraging me to shoot. Fortunately the shots started falling late.”

Finding a Way to Win

Over the past couple of years this is exactly the type of game that PC would lose. Ed Cooley had often said one of the final pieces of the puzzle for the Friars was learning how to finish games. Yes, they did miss some free throws down the stretch, but there was the feeling that the Friars would find a way to win this one. It’s is the exact opposite feeling that PC fans had become accustomed to in previous seasons.

They did it with defense once again, holding the Red Storm without a field goal for the final 4:30 of the game. PC simply couldn’t get key stops in recent years, and they’ve found a way to do so during this seven game stretch. Now they can win without relying solely on their offense.

Providence is taking the next step as a program. Ed Cooley explained, “We did a lot of things wrong, but when it was time to do something right we did.”

Defense Again

Playing for large stretches of the game in a zone defense, the Friars limited the Johnnies to 36.8% shooting (25-68). Following Cooley’s mantra of no threes and tough twos, St. Johns had only one three point field goal on 11 attempts – it’s yet another big difference from the “Keno ball” being played a couple of years ago.

What it All Means

After an 82-79 overtime loss to Connecticut on January 31, the Friars were 2-7 in the Big East and going nowhere fast. Most Friar fans believed that the most that could be hoped for was that PC could match last year’s win total in the Big East (four). One month later PC has won six of their last seven games and are now 8-8 in the conference. The NIT is a distinct possibility and an NCAA bid is no longer out of the realm of possibility.

More importantly, the program is headed the right direction. The Friars have their swag back. The positive vibes about the future of this program has never been stronger, and it’s exactly what Cooley promised when he came on board two years ago.

Notes and More

  • The crowd at the game (10,560 in attendance) was great. The Dunk has really come alive the past couple of games. Cooley on the fans, “I thought the crowd was great down the stretch. It makes a big, big difference when the crowd is like that. I am really starting to feel like we have a real home court advantage, particularly the last three games.”
  • In his post game press conference Lavin was gracious and effusive in his praise of PC. He called Cooley “hands down the coach of the year” in the Big East and said that the Friars are the hottest team in the Big East aside from Georgetown.
  • Two of PC’s primary recruits from last year played key roles for the Johnnies. Jakarr Sampson finished with 22 points and six rebounds, with Cooley noting, “I thought we played against the rookie of the year in the league” when referring to Sampson.  Chris Obekpa had six points and eight rebounds with two blocked shots and was generally a defensive force down low. Both players would have looked great in a Friar uniform this year, but as Cooley says if you aren’t with us we will enjoy beating you.
  • There was a presentation before the game for Vincent Council celebrating Council becoming the all-time assist leader for both Providence College and the Big East Conference. Council’s last home game for the Friars is Tuesday night against Seton Hall and Cooley said he hopes fans show out in force for his final night in Providence.
  • Former Friar great Otis Thorpe was in attendance last night and he looks like he could still get right out on the court and play. Otis had a terrific career in the NBA (an NBA champion and all star) and continues to be a great representative for Providence College.

 

Email Craig at craig.leighton@friarbasketball.com

730 Comments

  1. Jack Durkan

    March 3, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Great write up by Craig Leighton. Kris Dunn was the savior last night as well as all the other great defensive plays by teammates that thwarted St Johns. Fabulous performance.

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