Friar Basketball

Despite Surprise Run, This One Stings

PC Loss to USC

Let’s get this out of the way now. No one expected an NCAA Tournament appearance out of a Providence team that was widely viewed as rebuilding this season. Even PC coach Ed Cooley told the media yesterday that he was surprised to be in Dayton preparing for his fourth straight NCAA Tournament.

This was a team with one true playmaker in the backcourt, a lack of depth and size at the 4/5 positions, and as we’ve heard so often over the past few months, the Friars were picked to finish 9th in the ten team Big East in October.

Measured against preseason expectations, this season was a rousing success, and much will be written between now and next October about the positive steps forward this group took this year.

Yet, to those already noting what a fun, unexpected season this was, you’ll have to pardon the rest of us, for one night at least.

All year this group felt as though they weren’t given enough credit. They said as much in yesterday’s media session. So, let’s respect them enough to be honest about what an incredibly disappointing night it was for them in Dayton.

For 20 minutes Providence was playing at its peak — basketball as it was meant to be played. The ball never moved as beautifully as it did in the first half against USC. The Friars hung 44 points in building a 15 point advantage at the break, despite falling behind 7-0 to open the game.

Jalen Lindsey was the catalyst. The junior wing drew the ire of so many in Providence over the first two seasons of his career as he struggled to find his offensive identify, yet here he was carrying them on the biggest stage.

Lindsey turned himself into a 46% 3-point shooter this year and he delivered early to keep PC close. He knocked down four 3-pointers in the first ten minutes of the game and finished the first half with 15 points.

Everyone got into the act from there. Cartwright and fellow point guard Maliek White dished out four assists each, Rodney Bullock hit a pair of trailer 3s, and Emmitt Holt had his way inside (8 points, 6 boards) as Providence did as it pleased in making 15-27 from the field and 8-15 from beyond the arc in the first half.

The high powered SC offense scored a mere 29 points, a figure that would have been even worse had sophomore Bennie Boatright not shot the lights out early (14 first half points).

Providence’s second half lead soon became 17, and shortly after they got comfortable — and sloppy.

The Friars went to Holt on their first possession of the second half and he promptly dumped in a left handed hook shot at the rim. Everything was coming so easily at that point.

Providence got a stop on the ensuring possession, but Bullock teed up a quick 3-pointer early in the shot clock in the first sign of the Friars veering away from the offensive composure that treated them so well until that moment.

The next four possessions went: a force in traffic five seconds into the shot clock, turnover, turnover, turnover. It was during this stretch that USC’s offensive came to life.

“I think some of our early miscues gave them some energy and I just didn’t think we were tough,” Cooley said after the loss.

PC’s defense was sturdy early in the second half, as USC went without a field goal for nearly three minutes out of the break, but the aforementioned Friar turnovers resulted in a four point play and a 3 ball on consecutive Trojan possessions to spark an 8-0 run in a span of 1:20.

Providence had multiple opportunities to extend their 17 point lead, yet suddenly it was down to nine after that stretch, and momentum began to shift.

The Friars appeared to stabilize after a Bullock drive and a pretty dish from Cartwright to Holt pushed the advantage back to 13 with under 15 minutes to play.

USC turned the game around though by beating Providence up on the offensive glass over the final 15 minutes. By my count they had eight offensive rebounds in the second half. SC continued hammering away inside until they finally took the lead with 6:48 to play on a short jump shot by center Chimezie Metu.

PC would never lead again, as they were outscored 46-27 in the second half, and fell 75-71.

It was a shocking collapse in a surprisingly good season for Ed Cooley’s group, as USC surged to the seventh biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history.

“I thought we got lazy defensively in the second half, and I was really shocked at that given the time and score of this game,” said Cooley.

Maybe Providence was too flawed this season. And maybe in a few weeks’ time the 2016-17 Friars will be remembered for making a run to the NCAA Tournament that few anticipated. Yet, regardless of preseason expectations, or any perceived roster shortcomings, this has proven to be a competitive group that will be sick over this loss until the ball goes up again in November.

Providence held a three possession lead (or more) from the 6:46 mark of the first half until there were ten minutes left in the second. This was a game they controlled for long stretches, but simply didn’t close out.

“Really, really frustrated with how this game ended,” said Cooley. “I thought we controlled it for most of it. But in tournament play you’ve got to play a complete game, and we didn’t. So we’re going to take ourselves home and brush ourselves off and look forward to next season.

They gave us more than anyone expected this year, but that doesn’t make this one sting any less.

“Those kids are in there hurting,” Cooley said. “I’m proud of our group this season. I think we had a year no one expected. I thought we did some great things in this game. But in tournament play you can’t have the mistakes we’ve shown and advance and expect to win.”

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar

Email: kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

2 Comments

  1. Kurt Collins '92

    March 16, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    The team is graduating nobody and recruited two big freshman and a possible stud point guard. Looking forward to next year!

  2. Pingback: Friar Starting Five: Thursday Edition - Friar Basketball

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