Friar Basketball

Live from St. Thomas: Championship Monday


Another day, another come-from-behind victory for Providence in the Paradise Jam. It’s a perfect day in the Virgin Islands, but the Providence coaching staff won’t be enjoying much sun, as the Friars prep for the championship game against a Maryland team with a lot of talent.

Before getting into Maryland, a few more thoughts on last night’s win over LaSalle.

1. There’s a poise and calmness about this group that had been lacking in this program for the longest time. That comes with talent. We obviously saw it in finishing with a 27-4 run against Vanderbilt, and twice yesterday the Friars remained composed when things weren’t going their way. Yet, even when LaSalle opened the game 10-0 and when a 13 point lead was cut to one with just the over three minutes to play last night, the feeling in the gym was that Providence was still in control.

We saw evidence of this composure earlier this season. After blowing a late lead in regulation, PC trailed Boston College by a bucket with 1:20 left in overtime, but closed on a 6-0 run to win their season opener with three key players fouled out, their point guard sidelined and two others suspended.

And instead of panicking when it appeared as though Brown was going to shock the Friars, PC rallied from two different three point Brown leads with under five minutes left to pull it out late.

A big positive for Ed Cooley? The number of players who’ve made plays to win games. LaDontae Henton made two game-tying free throws with under 1:30 left in OT versus BC, while Lee Goldsbrough made 2-2 with just over a minute left in that one to give PC a lead they’d never relinquish. This was all set up by a 28 point night by Bryce Cotton who scored seven in overtime.

Against Brown, Kadeem Batts put the Friars on his back while they were rattled, setting up a game-tying three from Henton with 2:24 remaining, and Josh Fortune’s game winning three with roughly 30 seconds to go.

Kris Dunn was dominant late versus Vanderbilt, Henton made the go ahead and game sealing baskets in the final 1:20, Cotton knocked down two huge jumpers, and Tyler Harris connected on a momentum-swinging three.

Of course, last night, it was Carson Desrosiers changing the game at the defensive end in the first half, and Harris carrying the offense late.

A lot of contributions from a lot of different players through six games.

2. Ed Cooley was quite pleased with the charge Lee Goldsbrough took last night, giving him a congratulatory whack to the chest when he returned to the sideline.

3. Dunn was absolutely gassed mid-way through the second half, which coincided with the beginning of LaSalle’s run. It was most noticeable when Tyreek Duran picked his pocket for a layup and steal with around seven minutes left.

4. Fortune hit a few big shots early, scoring seven points in the first half, and getting PC on the board with a pump fake, dribble and pull up jumper to make it 10-2. He assisted on PC’s next two baskets and canned a three to tie the game with eight minutes left in the first half.

Cooley encouraged the sophomore to continue shooting when Fortune returned to the bench at one point in the second half after he’d passed up a three. Cooley noted in the preseason that they’ve been looking for Fortune to seek his shot more often — sounds like what we heard about Cotton during his first season under Cooley.

5. It bears repeating: Tyler Harris scored 19 points in the second half.

6. PC scored 41 in the second, despite shooting just 37% from the field on the night. 95% from the line on 22 attempts will do that for you.

Maryland is Next

With a win on Monday, Providence can open 7-0 for the first time since 1988-89. This is only the third time that PC has played the Terps, a loss in 1991 and, of course, the victory in the Final Four season of 1973.

Enough history. Maryland may be the most talented team the Friars have played this season, with the emerging Jake LaymanLayman leading them in scoring at over 16 per game. Layman is a sophomore out of Massachusetts who played with an utterly ridiculous BABC team on the AAU circuit that featured Nerlens Noel (lottery pick), Goodluck Okonoboh (UNLV commit – top 20 talent), Wayne Selden (freshman at Kansas, potential lottery pick in ’14), Georges Niang (two year starter at Iowa State), Rene Castro (Butler), Andrew Chrabascz (Butler) and Jaylen Brantley (Marshall).

Where the 6’8 Layman has taken his game to the next level is from beyond the arc. He was always a phenomenal athlete, but he’s shooting the ball at a very high level — making 15-30 from deep and 13-15 at the free throw line.

6’8 Evan Smotrycz was always a shooter (39% from 3). The Michigan transfer visited Providence prior to deciding to head to Maryland. The Reading, MA native was one of the best scorers in a terrific New England class during his time at New Hampton and was a long-time teammate of Carson Desrosiers with Mass Rivals during the summers. They played together on PC’s campus during the Providence Jamfest in the summer of 2009. Smotrycz is a 12/6 guy off of the bench.

Junior Nick Faust was one of the most highly regarded high school players in the country and doesn’t hesitate to fire away from deep.

Dez Wells is in his second year at Maryland after transferring in from Xavier last year. He’s a big bodied guard who bulls his way to the rim.

A pair of big bodies protect the rim, with the massive Shaquille Cleare (who is used to playing with talented guards from his days with Andrew and Aaron Harrison with the Houston Defenders in AAU — a team that actually defeated the aforementioned BABC bunch) and 260 pound Charles Mitchell.

If any team benefitted from a raucous crowd this weekend it has been Maryland, which has, by far, the biggest and loudest contingent of fans here. The gym seemed to clear out a bit after the Terps’ victory over Northern Iowa prior to the PC/LaSalle game.

A win tonight would send a message. Providence would be 7-0 with wins over two ACC teams, one from the SEC and a Sweet 16 team from a season ago.





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