Friar Basketball

Kyron Cartwright’s Moment Comes in MSG

KC Celebrating

There will be time to talk about Nate Watson’s coming-of-age outing, including the seven points he scored late in the second half as Providence surged, and the physical tone he set against a Xavier club that was having fun at the Friars’ expense early.

We’ll make note of Ed Cooley’s decision to throw Watson’s classmate, freshman Makai Ashton-Langford, into the deep end coming out of the halftime break looking for a spark. Ashton-Langford’s two strips and pair of baskets ignited a Providence team that trailed by 17 at one point.

Rodney Bullock deserves recognition for numerous clutch plays — his two free throws to tie the game with under a minute to go in regulation, game-tying jumpers, and the swooping block of JP Macura to keep the score tied at the end of regulation were as clutch as the senior has ever been.

But on this night, in this space, the focus is on Kyron Cartwright — Providence’s edgy, stubborn, demonstrative, and fearless senior point guard.

Cartwright is the type of player I’d begged Providence to recruit in the years prior to Ed Cooley’s arrival. On too many nights it felt as though the Friars were deferential to their Big East opponents, and lacked someone who simply felt he belonged on the biggest stage playing against the best players in the country.

That’s been Cartwright from his freshman season. He didn’t come in with the acclaim of classmates Jalen Lindsey, Paschal Chukwu, or Ben Bentil, but Cartwright earned Ed Cooley’s trust early. He was the freshman starting alongside Kris Dunn, Tyler Harris, LaDontae Henton, and Carson Desrosiers on opening night.

While Dunn struggled through an 0-5 shooting night in his return from shoulder surgery, Cartwright stepped up ably with eight points and five assists in a 64-60 win over Albany.

As a sophomore, Cartwright strutted after finishing an and-1 in the NCAA Tournament against North Carolina, incurring the wrath of what was essentially a home crowd in Raleigh. At that point I thought about how he might have the personality needed to replace Dunn (who went on to be the 5th pick in the NBA Draft three months later).

What I didn’t expect was the evolution of his game as a junior. It was then that he flashed greater scoring ability, and was named 2nd Team All Big East and the league’s Most Improved Player.

His senior year saw him battle an assortment of leg ailments. We’ll never know the extent to which they hindered his game, but earlier this week he wasn’t named 1st or 2nd Team all conference, but Honorable Mention. It couldn’t have sat well with him.

With his senior year, and his Providence career, coming to a close, the Compton native has given quite the farewell gift to Friartown in New York.

He’s played 83 minutes over the past two days — a pair of overtime wins over favored Creighton and Xavier. On Thursday he dealt Creighton a death blow with a jumper late in overtime, and against Xavier it was more of the same.

Cartwright struggled early in Friday’s semifinal, starting 1-8 from the field. He bounced back by making five of his last nine shots, while turning the ball over just once in 42 minutes against an aggressive Xavier defense.

His stubbornness? Xavier’s lead hovered around 10 points midway through the second half when Cartwright hit a pair of difficult baseline jumpers. Both of those shots kept PC within shouting distance. He just wouldn’t go away.

After Kerem Kanter pushed X ahead by 10 with a 3-pointer, Cartwright powered through the lane, threw in a difficult layup, and let out a scream while flexing and bounding back down the floor. When Cartwright gets it going the Friars follow, and when Cartwright is demonstrative he’s rolling.

The final five minutes of regulation and overtime were phenomenal. Madison Square Garden exploded when Cartwright threw down a breakaway dunk with just over four minutes to play. He then drew an offensive foul on Paul Scruggs with PC trailing by two with just over a minute left in regulation.

Cartwright knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game with 12 seconds left in the second half (after his layup was waved off), buried a jumper with 57 seconds to go in overtime that pushed the Friar lead to three, then drew a charge on Macura with 12 seconds remaining and Providence clinging to a one-point lead.

After Xavier couldn’t get a shot off in the final seconds (great denial by Bullock of Trevon Bluiett on that play), Providence had its upset and Cartwright had his moment — one that will long be remembered in Friartown.

Between the injuries that forced him to miss games in December, leave others in January, and crept up as recently as Thursday against Creighton, this had to have been a frustrating season at times for Cartwright. Through it all, he got the moment he deserved on Friday night, with his fearlessness, toughness, and moxie turned all the way up on the game’s biggest stage.

4 Comments

  1. collins

    March 10, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    great job on this article;
    I would be very impressed if PC is with in 10 points at the half tonight against Nova. If Cooley can get them ready to compete after that win last night, it would be his best coaching job of the year.

  2. Irish Spectre

    March 10, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    …excellent take on KC and the Sunshine Friars.

    Cartwright is equal parts mercurial, courageous and magical.

    If I was Coach, I’d have put him in bubble wrap and locked him in a closet immediately after the game until tonight, because the man is in the zone, and he is most definitely the sparkplug that fires the motor.

    Go Friars.

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    March 10, 2018 at 11:34 pm

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