Month: February 2014

It’s crunch time for the Friars

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In a season of ups and downs, the Friars have persevered and played themselves into the mix for a spot in next month’s NCAA Tournament.

Like many other fans, I too had my doubts about this team, particularly halfway through the season. Among the losses of Kris Dunn, Brandon Austin, and Rodney Bullock, was an epic beating that the Friars took at Villanova on January 5 to drop Providence to 0-2 in the Big East, a beating that it seemed they may never get back up from. On top of that, the Friars had dropped their Big East opener less than a week prior in a heart-wrenching double-overtime loss to Seton Hall.

I admittedly was ready to write this team off for the season at that point, as many others probably were. But am I surprised where they are right now? Not entirely.

This basketball program and all of those surrounding it have too much pride to just pack it in. Led by head coach Ed Cooley and All-America candidate Bryce Cotton, who is undoubtedly the most underrated player in the country, the Friars have put together a more than respectable season, leaving themselves an opportunity to claim third or fourth place in the Big East with just three games remaining.

Tough tests still lie ahead with road games at Seton Hall and Creighton and a home game against Marquette. Realistically, the Friars need to win two out of three, in my opinion, to keep Tournament hopes alive. On top of that, they would need to win at least one game in the Big East Tournament. If they did at least that, Providence would finish 21-12 and have a strong case to make it to the dance.

I don’t want to look too far ahead, but it’s definitely doable. Having a player like Cotton makes anything seem possible. He’s single-handedly kept his team in games this season and would unanimously be the Big East Player of the Year if it weren’t for Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who’s probably the favorite for the Naismith Award, honoring the top player in the country.

Cotton and the Friars need a strong effort in a must-win Friday night at Seton Hall, who are still trying to find their identity late in the season, giving Creighton all they could handle on the road Sunday night before dropping a game to lowly DePaul Tuesday night.

I know being on the bubble isn’t ideal for many, but it’s more than I expected from this team after that loss at Villanova. If the Friars continue to play up to their potential, they just may be dancing for the first time since 2004.

Providence edges Butler in must-win

Providence (18-10, 8-7) came out strong and scored 46 first-half points in an eventual 87-81 win at Butler Sunday night, keeping NCAA Tournament hopes alive for the Friars.

Early on, the Bulldogs were forcing the ball out of Bryce Cotton’s hands. Luckily, Tyler Harris, LaDontae Henton, and Josh Fortune were all making shots, allowing the Friars to sustain a lead. However, Bryce Cotton was eventually going to get his, making a reverse layup around the 11 minute mark for his first points of the game. That’s all he needed to get going, scoring 13 first-half points and a game-high 28 for the game.

Butler’s Khyle Marshall matched Cotton with 13 first-half points, but Providence still took a 46-33 lead into the break.

Butler stormed all the way back in the first five minutes of the second half, burying the Friars early with a 17-2 run to take their first lead since the 13 minute mark of the first half.

It took a few minutes, but Providence was able to fight off Butler’s big comeback, getting big shots from Cotton and Henton to regain the lead for good.

In addition to Cotton, Henton (15), Batts (14), Fortune (14), and Harris (14) were all in double-figures.

Butler was led by their leading scorer Kellen Dunham, who poured in a team-high 25 points. Marshall also chipped in with 22.

The Friars will face another must-win Friday night when they travel to Seton Hall, who gave Creighton all they could handle Sunday on the road. The game will tip at 7:00 p.m. and will be televised on CBS Sports Net.

Friars lose 2OT heartbreaker to Wildcats

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Providence (17-10, 7-7) was edged by #9 Villanova in double overtime Tuesday night, 82-79, in a game that featured 15 lead changes.

Behind a packed house, the Friars jumped out to an early 22-13 lead over Nova, thanks in large part to 10 points from sophomore Josh Fortune over that stretch. However, Villanova sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono nailed a few key three-pointers towards the end of the half to bring the Wildcats back to tie the game 33-33 at the break.

Villanova sustained a lead early in the second half and maintained it throughout until LaDontae Henton came off of a screen in the final minute of regulation and drained a three-pointer to tie the game 63-63, his first points of the game. After Arcidiacono missed on a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, the Wildcats again missed on a chance to win at the end of the first overtime.

However, the third time proved to be a charm for Villanova. With the score tied 79-79, Arcidiacono drove to the basket for an and-one, making it an 82-79 game with 3.4 seconds remaining. The Friars set up a perfect play with time running out, setting up a clear three for Henton, but it fell just short.

The Friars were haunted by 19 turnovers in the game, including seven from Fortune.

Bryce Cotton led the Friars with a game-high 22 points and nine assists, while Kadeem Batts (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Tyler Harris (15 points, 12 rebounds) each recorded double-doubles for Providence.

Arcidiacono led five Wildcats’ in double-figures with 21 points. James Bell also chipped in with 17 points and a team-high nine rebounds.

The Friars will look to bounce back on Sunday, when they travel to Butler for a 6:00 p.m. tip. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Friars dominate Blue Demons

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Providence (17-9, 7-6) downed DePaul at the Dunk Saturday afternoon, dominating from start to finish in an 84-61 win. With the win, the Friars snapped a three-game losing streak, picking up their first win since at DePaul on February 1.

Bryce Cotton led six Friars in double-figures in the game with 22 points, including 10 points, four rebounds, and four assists in the opening half en route to a 49-26 first half Friar lead.

For the first time in a long time, Cotton didn’t play the whole game, getting short rests at the end of each half.

In a must win game, Providence had one of their best shooting performances of the season, shooting 52.9% from the field as a team. They were also dominant down low, outrebounding DePaul 37-30 and blocking nine shots.

Providence also got big contributions from a number of players. In addition to Cotton’s 22, Kadeem Batts (15 points and eight rebounds), LaDontae Henton (13 points and seven rebounds), Carson Desrosiers (12 points, five rebounds, and two blocks), Tyler Harris (10 points and six rebounds), and Josh Fortune (10 points) all scored in double-figures.

DePaul was led by shooting guard Brandon Young, who poured in 18 points and dished out six assists.

Before Saturday, Providence still remained in ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s last four in for the NCAA Tournament.

The Friars will look to build off of their strong effort on Saturday when they welcome in #6 Villanova on Tuesday night at the Dunk. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Friars let one slip away at Georgetown

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The Friars (16-9, 6-6) coughed up a second half lead in an eventual 83-71 loss to Georgetown Monday night at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. With the loss, the Friars dropped their third straight game, falling into the middle of the pack in the Big East.

Providence started slow in the first half, with Bryce Cotton only freeing himself up for one shot. However, in the last 6:30 of the first half, it was the Cotton show. The senior guard drained 19 points in the final stages of the half, including an improbable three at the buzzer. After trailing for much of the opening half, the Friars pulled ahead to take a 36-32 lead at the break. Tyler Harris kept the Friars hanging around early, scoring seven points in the first 10 minutes after struggling mightily the last two games.

In the second half, the Hoyas just wouldn’t go away, ultimately tying the game 54-54 with 8:29 remaining. From there, Georgetown stifled the Friars offensively, forcing miss after miss, allowing themselves to run away with the game.

Foul trouble haunted the Friars throughout the game with Kadeem Batts, LaDontae Henton, and Harris all getting in foul trouble early. As a result, Henton scored his first point near the midway point of the second half.

Cotton paced the Friars with a game-high 31 points and five assists. Batts also had a solid game for the Friars, chipping in with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Georgetown’s second half offensive explosion was led by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who poured in a team-high 22 points including key makes down the stretch. Markel Starks had a solid game for the Hoyas, posting 14 points, three rebounds, and four assists.

The Friars will look to get off the schneid on Saturday, when they host DePaul at the Dunk at 2:00 p.m. Providence will look to take advantage of a depleted DePaul team, as it was announced Monday that the Blue Demon’s best player, Cleveland Melvin, has left the team. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net.

 

Friar comeback falls short against St. John’s

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A lopsided first half was too much for Providence (16-7, 6-4) to overcome Tuesday night, as St John’s (14-9, 4-6) fought off a second half Friar comeback to secure an 86-76 road win.
A combination of Friar shooting woes and an impressive 61% first half shooting performance from St. John’s essentially determined the game. The Friars went just 14-for-38 from the floor in the first half, resulting in a 53-37 St John’s lead at the half.
In the second half, St. John’s increased their lead to 23 points before the Friars mounted a comeback. Providence then went on a 16-0 run to cut their deficit to just nine points. The Friars were able to cut their deficit to six points (69-63) around the five-minute mark and then five points (80-75) in the final minute, but couldn’t get any closer.
Providence’s comeback effort was led by senior Bryce Cotton, who had a game-high 32 points and six assists, his fourth 30-point performance of his Friar career.
Kadeem Batts notched his team-leading sixth double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He was also 9-of-9 from the line.
St. John’s was led by D’Angelo Harrison, who went just 4-of-15 from the field, but hit 11 of his 12 free throws to finish with 22 points. JaKarr Sampson also had an impressive game, posting 21 points and seven boards.
The Friars will return to action when they travel to Xavier Saturday afternoon for a 3:00 p.m. tip. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.