Friar Basketball

Behind Council’s Late Surge, Friars Close Dunk in Style

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In his final game ever in Providence we saw a different Vincent Council. The typically reserved Council motioned to the crowd for noise throughout PC’s 77-68 victory over Robert Morris in the second round of the NIT, and the raucous audience of over 7,000 responded to both his pleas and the effort of his teammates by roaring their way through the game’s final six minutes.

It was in those closing six minutes that Council rewrote the ending to his last game in the Dunkin Donuts Center.  Despite a subpar shooting night from their senior leader, Providence managed to withstand an outside onslaught from Robert Morris (11 made 3s) by dominating the glass (a 43-18 advantage) and by living at the free throw line (31-36 from the stripe, ten of those makes coming from Council), and when they took a seven point advantage with just over seven minutes to play it seemed as though the Friars were set to pull away.

It took Robert Morris just 56 seconds to run off an 8-0 run that suddenly gave them the lead with 6:20 on the clock.  Perhaps emotion had gotten to Council throughout the game’s first 34 minutes, as he’d gone 0-8 from the field to that point, while missing a pair of free throws during the 8-0 RMU spurt.

LaDontae Henton (21 points on 6-7 from the field and 8-8 at the free throw line) and Bryce Cotton (20 points, 3-9 from 3) kept Providence afloat offensively for the game’s first 35 minutes, but Council carried them home.

A pair of Council free throws made it 63-62 Friars with 5:21 left, and with 3:44 remaining and PC leading by just one, Council again got to the line and made the pair.

Then he delivered the back breaker.

Council’s first, and only, made field goal of the night came with just over three minutes to play – a seemingly impossible shot that he rolled over the rim off of a spin move in which he was fouled.  After converting the free throw, Council pushed the lead to five at 69-64 and had suddenly scored seven points in two and a half minutes, making all five free throws he attempted in the process.

Council then sealed it, blowing the roof off of the Dunk in the process, by finding Lee Goldsbrough (6 points, 9 rebounds) for a layup with just over a minute to play to push the advantage to eight.

In career in which he struggled through three losing seasons and fell just short of an NCAA Tournament bid as a senior, Council’s final game in Providence was vaguely reminiscent of Marshon Brooks’ finale – a game in which Brooks hit a game winner against Rutgers before thanking the crowd afterwards.

The experience was far different in another sense though.  This time it wasn’t just the senior thanking the Friar faithful, but the head coach with all of his players huddled at center court.  Ed Cooley enthusiastically closed the door on the Dunkin Donuts Center for this season by lauding the fans for their spirit on Monday, noting it was the type of crowd Providence will need going forward as they continue to build towards winning a national championship.

Sparse crowds can be the norm for high-major programs playing in the NIT, but that wasn’t the case in Providence tonight. It may not be the NCAA Tournament appearance many were hoping for after such a strong February, but the message from the fans was clear throughout a wild second half at the Dunk. Cooley and his players weren’t the only ones who stuck around to say thank you.

And the biggest applause was reserved for Council, the senior point guard that played a trademark game in so many ways: he was nearly impossible to handle off of the dribble, controlled the tempo throughout, handed out 10 assists and was the player of the game on a night in which he made just 1-9 from the field.  He wasn’t always perfect, but Council has been the best pure point guard in Providence since Shammgod.  And tonight he closed his career at the Dunk a winner.

With the win the Friars face a major challenge in the NIT’s 3rd round, as a trip to Waco, TX to play Baylor on Wednesday night awaits them.  It’s a flight that Cooley estimated at 10,000 miles after the game, but said his team would fly to the moon if it meant they can keep playing.

Their ears might still be ringing when board the plane tomorrow morning.

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Notable Quotes from Ed Cooley:

On Lee Goldsbrough: “The last time I checked Lee is taller than Kadeem (Batts). He is just not as thick, but he has a pretty good body from what a lot of girls tell us.  I thought he came in and gave us great minutes today. Really, really good minutes today from his physicality to making timely plays to catching the ball.”

On Council: “Vincent Council just willed us to win. You have those senior moments when you don’t want to lose. Vince willed us to that win with his speed. He can get from rim to rim as quick as anybody. I finally feel like I have a healthy Vincent Council where his hamstring isn’t as sore.”

On the crowd: “I thought about taking that microphone all day. I wanted to thank our crowd. We have had some really good crowds. I’d like to see every seat filled, but part of building your program is building your fan base back up.

I think this is a really tough place to play when the energy is like that. I think the last three and a half minutes of this game – that was actually fun. That was a lot of fun to hear the building shake like that. The players all feed off of that. And you know what? A team will crumble under those circumstances, and I thought that happened today.”

On Kris Dunn’s potential: “I think Kris Dunn, at the end of the day, will become an elite level defender. He has a lot of Andre Iguodala in him. Length. Toughness. I think he will become the defensive player of the year in the Big East in years to come. And he is just a baby, learning how to play. He is something to watch defensively.”

On his team’s growth: “We are not just relying on one or two guys. Everybody that stepped on the floor gave us some really good energy today. That is the fun part of building a team. That is the great part about building chemistry and guys believing in one another. Guys start to feel like they are part of it all the time, not just some of the time. Credit our players. These kids have come a long way, and I mean a long way. Credit to them for staying the course and believing in what we are teaching.

* * *

From Andy Toole on the free throw differential: “Talk about the lopsided free throws. It is hard to beat a team when they make 20 more free throws than you do. I am not going to lie to you, we foul a lot, but we also go to the basket as well. That is a pretty lopsided advantage, but I will go back and review the film. A lot of times I go back and review film and the refs are right, so I’ll keep my comments to myself.”

 

 

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