Friar Basketball

Looking Back at Ed Cooley vs. UConn

Henton Yelling

Ed Cooley has faced UConn four times as head coach at Providence — once during his first season at PC, a pair of overtime games the following season, and an exhibition game in 2017. Here’s a look back at each of them.

February 28, 2012: Providence Wins, 72-70

Cooley’s Friars were in full rebuild mode during his first season in 2011-12. Connecticut was facing problems of its own at the time, as head coach Jim Calhoun was not on the sideline due to a spinal condition. The Huskies were 3-4 in the seven games Calhoun had missed heading into this contest at the Dunk.

UConn was headlined by Andre Drummond, Shabazz Napier, and Jeremy Lamb, while the Friars saw big minutes from future mainstays Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts, and LaDontae Henton. Providence started Ron Giplaye, and got 13 points, seven rebounds, and four assists from sophomore guard Gerard Coleman — both would transfer after the season.

Connecticut led by as many as 14 points, but Providence ripped off a 26-4 second half run to turn the tide. Cotton hit four 3-pointers during that spurt and scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half. Henton, then a freshman, hit two monster threes in the final two minutes to put PC over the top. Batts grabbed 13 boards off the bench, while Vincent Council added nine points and 11 assists.

Drummond finished with 14 points and 12 assists, while Lamb (12 points, 5-15 shooting) and Napier (4 points, 1-4 shooting) were quiet.

January 31, 2013: UConn Wins in Overtime, 82-79

While few would have guessed it at the time, Connecticut very well may have cost Providence an NCAA Tournament berth in Cooley’s second season. Those Friars finished 9-9 in the Big East, but were just 2-6 in league play when Connecticut visited in late January.

The headline leading into this game was Cooley benching Henton and Council. The Friars started Lee Goldsbrough and Ted Bancroft instead, with Bancroft playing over 20 minutes. Both Henton and Council responded, with Henton going for 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Council finishing with 15 points and 10 assists. Cooley said he benched the duo for not playing defense in the games prior to this one.

Providence bludgeoned UConn on the glass, 55-24, and seemed to carry momentum with them into overtime after Cotton tied the game with 1:30 to go with a three, and Henton tied it once again with 18 seconds left.

The Friars couldn’t get over the hump in overtime, however, as a Cotton 3-pointer in the closing seconds rimmed off. That shot would have tied it.

Batts had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead PC. Freshman Kris Dunn grabbed eight rebounds, but shot 1-7 from the field. Cotton was 2-10 from long range.

Former Providence recruit Ryan Boatright scored 19 points for the Huskies, while Napier and DeAndre Daniels added 18 apiece.

The Friars’ record did not reflect it, but this group was on the verge of turning their season around. They knocked off Villanova and won at Seton Hall, played a back-and-forth battle with #7 Syracuse, lost by four to Pittsburgh, and fell at Marquette (the infamous bat game) earlier in January.

March 9, 2013: UConn Wins in Overtime, 63-59

The angriest this writer has seen Cooley postgame came following a heartbreaker in the regular season finale at UConn. Providence was 7-1 since the last time they saw UConn and snuck their way onto the bubble (Joe Lunardi had them last eight out).

Cooley’s ire was directed toward the officials who called a foul on Cotton with under 20 seconds to play in overtime. Boatright made a difficult fadeaway while getting the foul call. He converted to push UConn ahead by three, but Providence got a great look for Cotton at the top of the key to tie it that hit the front iron and rimmed off.

Cooley’s anger may have been about more than one call. This was a group that lost Dunn and Council for the season’s first month and a half due to injury. With those two healthy, Providence likely wins one possession losses to UMass and Penn State in Puerto Rico in November. Losses to Brown and a bad Boston College team certainly didn’t help matters either. Once this team was healthy it had a rock solid core of Council, Dunn, Cotton, Henton, Batts, and freshman Josh Fortune.

PC would lose its Big East Tournament opener a week later to Cincinnati, ending their NCAA Tournament hopes.

The Huskies finished 10-8 in conference play, but were ineligible for the postseason due to academic performance rate issues.

Batts (14 points, 12 rebounds), Dunn (11), and Fortune (10) were the only Friars to score in double figures. Henton came up clutch twice late, but had his shot blocked in the final seconds after Dunn turned down a decent look from the corner at the end of regulation.

PC nearly won despite Cotton shooting 1-8 from three. Henton finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.

This was UConn’s final game in the Big East (or so we thought). They went on to win the national championship the following year, while Providence captured its first Big East title since 1994.

October 25, 2017: Providence Wins, 90-76

The two clubs played each other for the first time in four years for a good cause. This exhibition game at Mohegan Sun raised $75,000 to benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

This game was never close. The Friars shot a ridiculous 66.7% from the field and 52.9% from deep. PC’s lead grew to 27 points in the second half before they took their foot off the accelerator. Connecticut never led.

Seven Friars played over 20 minutes, and five scored in double figures. An intriguing storyline was the play of freshman point guard Makai Ashton-Langford, who had committed to UConn, but rescinded and signed with the Friars during the spring of his senior year at Brewster Academy. He scored 10 points and to along with four assists and three rebounds in 26 minutes.

Kyron Cartwright and Isaiah Jackson both shot 4-4 from the field, Rodney Bullock went 5-7, Nate Watson 4-5, and Alpha Diallo 5-8.

Connecticut shot 29.4% in the field half, and 27.3% from 3-point range for the game.

It was shocking how far UConn had fallen. They finished with a 14-18 record and Kevin Ollie was fired after the season.

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