Friar Basketball

Creighton Win Embodiment of This Season

KC Head Up

What a fitting way for the 2017-18 Providence College Friars to (unofficially) lock up an NCAA Tournament bid.

Thursday afternoon’s 72-68 overtime victory over Creighton in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals perfectly embodied this team and its season.

Creighton brought the game’s two most talented players with them to New York. Marcus Foster was named 1st Team All Big East for the second season in a row, Khyri Thomas is the league’s reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a potential first round draft pick, and Greg McDermott’s bunch is lethal when clicking on all cylinders (see: 192 points scored in back-to-back victories over UCLA and Northwestern, or 89 more in a spectacular win against Villanova).

Creighton’s 84.8 points per game are good for ninth in the country, and Ed Cooley came into this one looking to avoid a track meet.

So, they turned it into a fist fight.

That’s been the identify of this team when things are going well. They drag opponents into the dirt with them and grind them into the ground.

The high-flying Jays were grounded alright, scoring just 59 points through the end of regulation — a regulation session that closed with Alpha Diallo tying the game with 12 seconds to play after grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds. Diallo then forced Foster into a desperation heave to close out the game’s first 40 minutes with stellar one-on-one defense.

Thursday also served as a reminder of all that has driven Friartown crazy about this team at times. They scored just one field goal in the final six minutes of the first half, were on the wrong end of a 14-2 run, made just 5-22 from 3-point range, and 19-31 at the free throw line.

Despite the offensive struggles, Providence was able to dictate the pace and that’s what gave them the opportunity to pull it out late.

Cooley knew what was on the line Thursday. Rather than play it safe, he changed his starting lineup, going small against the Jays by starting Maliek White for Kalif Young. Much like his decision to go zone against the sharpshooting Jays in the 2014 Big East Championship, PC’s coach rolled the dice at the most critical point of the season.

Creighton’s lone big starter, Toby Hegner, does most of his damage beyond the 3-point arc, and Providence didn’t want to force Young or Nate Watson to the perimeter to defend him.

The 6’10 Hegner couldn’t make the smaller Friar defenders pay inside or out, finishing with just two points.

PC chased Creighton off of the 3-point arc all afternoon (the Jays shot an uncharacteristic 6-23) and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. They were simply the more physical team, despite downsizing their lineup.

The senior trio of Jalen Lindsey, Rodney Bullock, and Kyron Cartwright each had their moments.

Lindsey flashed a rarely seen post game for a score, grabbed 10 rebounds, and snapped the 14-2 run with a 3-pointer that brought Providence to within four at a time when Creighton looked primed to pull away.

Bullock had a critical spurt of his own with a double pump layup off of the backcourt followed by a corner 3 to cut Creighton’s lead to one in the second half. He hit a difficult fadeaway bank shot a few minutes later, and finished with three blocked shots. One of those blocks served as a second half tone-setter. Bullock pinned Foster’s layup attempt, gathered the rebound in one motion, and hit Cartwright for a breakout opportunity.

Of course, Cartwright would have his moment. His double spin move in the first half was eye-popping, and he ensured Providence would dance in each of his four seasons as a Friar with a fadeaway following a spin with 15 seconds left in overtime.

Diallo and Isaiah Jackson were simply matchup problems. Jackson seemed to grab every loose ball late, and gave PC its first lead in forever with a left handed layup in traffic followed by a top of the key 3 on the next possession.

The duo combined for 18 rebounds from the wing, with Diallo leading PC with 19 points (to go along with nine rebounds, and three assists).

With so much riding on the Creighton game, it was easy in the immediate aftermath to forget that another opportunity awaits tonight in the Garden. The Friars are almost certainly headed back to the NCAA Tournament for a school record fifth straight time — that’s been the goal all season — but now they play an everything-to-gain semifinal against a Xavier team vying for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

In its short time in the Big East, Xavier has established itself as perhaps the league’s most physical program, but this version of the Friars will welcome another fight. When the game turns grimy the Friars look their best.


  1. Derec Lamendola

    March 9, 2018 at 3:39 pm

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  2. Irish Spectre

    March 9, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    …excellent analysis.

    “They drag opponents into the dirt with them and grind them into the ground.” This is a great line, and it’s true. …but it can be very much a double-edged sword due to the higher potential for foul trouble (esp. Bullock.) It’s important to have refs that let ’em play. Go Friars.

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