Friar Basketball

Boatright’s Late Shot Propels UConn Past the Friars

Shabazz

With a 63-59 overtime loss at Connecticut on Saturday afternoon, Providence wrapped up their regular season with a 9-9 conference record – quite an accomplishment for a team on the verge of a lost season the last time PC and UConn met.  The silver linings can wait for another day, however.  This was an opportunity lost for the Friars.

Depleted, but not without talent, Connecticut played their last game of the 2012-13 season (they are banned from postseason play due to a low academic rate) without four core players, but they did have the best three players on the floor on Saturday afternoon.

Bryce Cotton may have been the league’s leading scorer coming in, Vincent Council the conference’s all-time leader in assists, and Kadeem Batts a matchup nightmare for a thin UConn frontcourt, but it was Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels who were Saturday’s top performers.

Daniels got the Huskies going early, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the first half.  He looked to be a huge matchup problem for the Friars until LaDontae Henton slowed him after halftime.  Still, the 6’8 sophomore finished with a fat 19 point, eight rebound, four block, two steal stat line.  His emergence has been a key development for Connecticut.

Napier and Boatright took turns making big shots late.  Neither shot well from deep (a combined 3-14 from 3), but what they did do was make difficult shots when UConn most needed it.

With Providence ahead by two and under 30 seconds left, Boatright drew a foul on Kris Dunn and proceeded to make both free throws.

On the ensuing possession, Ed Cooley put the ball in the hands of Cotton for a final shot.  With the experienced Cotton, Council and Batts on the floor, the ball was swung to the freshman Dunn with five seconds remaining, who then passed to Henton baseline, his shot getting blocked to keep the game tied.

Napier (16 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals) kicked off the overtime session with a difficult fadeaway, and Boatright hit the biggest shot of the afternoon – a difficult jump shot on which Cotton was whistled for a foul.  It was a foul that sent Cooley into a tizzy (after the game he said he thought it should have be a non-call, as both players forced contact).

That was the difference between the two teams on Saturday.  While Boatright (23 points), Napier and Daniels were able to overcome a supporting cast that gave them all of five points, PC’s big three could not carry the Friars in this one, despite key contributions from Henton, Dunn and Josh Fortune.

Napier and Boatright both hit extremely difficult shots late, and because of this UConn finished their season with 20 wins (10 in the Big East) and Providence most likely had their NCAA Tournament bubble burst.

Taking a deeper look:

1. Dunn was terrific in his return to Connecticut, scoring 11 points and grabbing four assists.  He was the key to an early 10-2 second-half Friar run that turned a six point UConn halftime lead into a PC advantage.  In the first three minutes of the second, he assisted on a pair of Batts baskets, knocked down a three pointer, made a free throw and converted a layup to make it 36-34 Friars.

Later in the half it appeared as though UConn was taking back control of the game, but Dunn came up with a steal and dunk to give PC a 48-47 lead with under eight minutes to go.

Once he fouled out, the Friars were down their best perimeter defender.  While Dunn bought the up-fake that sent Boatright to the line near the end of regulation, he blocked his shot at the end of regulation when the two met in Providence in late January.  He most likely would have been covering Boatright when he made the tough shot to win it in overtime.

2. For all of the struggles with his shot this year, Henton had three monster scores late.  The first came with the game tied with 5:35 left.  Henton stepped into an 18 footer to give the Friars a two point lead.

A blown defensive assignment led to a Napier three with 3:24 to go, and it looked like lights out for Providence.  PC went a minute and a half without a basket and faced desperation time when Henton swished a three ball to tie it with 1:57 left.  It was shades of a season ago when Henton drilled a pair of three pointers to rally Providence to victory over Connecticut at the Dunk.

In overtime he knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to tie the game with 45 seconds remaining.

Henton was, by far, PC’s best clutch shooter last season and we saw signs of that on Saturday.  He also grabbed double figures in rebounds for the fourth time in five games.

3. Looking for one reason why PC’s offense sputtered?  Connecticut beat them in second chance points, 12-4.  Providence is the top offensive rebounding team in the Big East, but when they aren’t getting second chance baskets their offense struggles.  They had only two second chance points in regulation.

4. Fortune provides a lift. After the game Cooley said he was “50-50” on whether or not to insert Fortune in on the final possession of regulation.  He opted for Dunn, who turned down a look from deep and got the ball to Henton for the last shot that was blocked.

Fortune scored 10 points, including a three pointer that gave Providence a 43-39 lead and an offensive rebound and layup in the final two minutes of overtime to give the Friars their first score of the extra frame.

He’s been a little quick with the trigger at times this season, but when squared Fortune is a weapon from deep.

5. Cotton made just 1-8 from three point range, but still has a chance to catch Billy Donovan’s PC record for threes in a season.  He’s 10 shy of Donovan with at least one Big East Tournament game to play and potentially additional postseason games after that.

Cotton had a straight-on three pointer that caught the front rim with under 10 seconds to go in overtime.  He was forced to rush the shot a bit, but it would have tied it for the Friars had he connected.

6. Credit UConn for slowing Batts.  He torched the Huskies in Providence, fouling out two men and scoring 20 points, while grabbing nine boards.  This one was more of a struggle.  The junior still finished with a very good stat line of 14 points and 13 rebounds, but nothing came easily for him on Saturday.

7. Providence held Connecticut to 30% shooting in the second half – a half that Cooley thought his team controlled.  UConn only had three bench points and didn’t get a single fast break point.

Cooley said the Friars played hard, but got hurt by mental lapses.  He spoke of missed assignments on free throws and in leaving Napier open late, but finished by saying, “I’m proud of our kids… I thought our kids played their asses off.  We played hard, we played together, but they got the right call at the right time.  Point.  Period.”

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