Month: March 2014

Cotton’s 36 not enough in loss to Tar Heels

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Providence’s season came to a shocking end in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night to North Carolina, as the Tar Heels erased a three point deficit with just over a minute left to edge the Friars, 79-77.

The teams came out on fire trading baskets back-and-forth in the first 10 minutes of the half, a pace that ultimately caught up with the Friars, allowing the Tar Heels to establish a lead. However, in the later portion of the first half the Friars started to dictate play, slowing down the game in the half court, a pace that’s proved to be beneficial for the Friars in the past. As a result, the Friars cut their deficit to 39-36 behind 13 points and three assists from Bryce Cotton.

In the second half, it was the Cotton show. He single-handedly shredded apart the Tar Heel defense en route to a 36 point performance, three points shy of Austin Croshere’s school record of 39 in an NCAA Tournament game in 1997.

On the back of Cotton, the Friars established a substantial lead of seven, with Kadeem Batts finally chipping in with two straight baskets under the five minute mark.

But the Tar Heel’s advantage on the glass all game long proved to catch up with the Friars. After a wild drive by Tyler Harris near the two minute mark that was essentially a turnover, North Carolina began their comeback, eventually resulting in a three-pointer by Marcus Paige near the one-minute mark to tie the game at 77-77.

James-Michael McAdoo then grabbed an offensive board on the last possession of the game and got fouled. He hit the first free throw then missed the second, grabbing another offensive rebound and icing the game by drawing another foul in the final seconds.

Cotton had one of the all-time great performances by a Friar in NCAA Tournament history, scoring 36 points to go along with eight assists and five rebounds.

LaDontae Henton also had a solid game for the Friars, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for a double-double.

With the loss, the Friars capped off a season in which they won their first Big East championship in 20 years and made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years.

Friars playing with nothing to lose, everything to gain

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Not many people expected the Friars to be where they’ll be tonight.

A season ending shoulder surgery, two season long suspensions and an undermanned rotation later, and the Friars have proved all doubters wrong.

After making an improbable run en route to the program’s first Big East Championship in 20 years, this year’s team has an opportunity to etch their names in the record books even further.

They’ll have that opportunity tonight in San Antonio when they look across the floor and see the same Carolina blue that Michael Jordan and many other greats once wore.

The good thing for the Friars is that Jordan won’t be coming out of that Tar Heel locker room. Instead, they’ll get a solid team that’s had an identity crisis all season long. A season that has been highlighted by wins against top teams such as Duke, Michigan State, and Louisville and featured losses against Belmont, UAB, and Wake Forest, not to mention a quarterfinal loss in the ACC Tournament to Pittsburgh.

On the other hand, you have a Providence team that has battled adversity all season long and are playing their best basketball.

I’m sure Bryce Cotton would’ve never deemed this possible after his freshman year at Providence under Keno Davis, a season in which the Friars were in the basement of the Big East with a 4-14 conference record.

But just three short years later, Ed Cooley has resurrected this program and Cotton has become the face of the program after contemplating a departure following that forgettable 2010-11 season.

With the transformation of the program now complete, the Friars will now turn dreams into a reality, having the chance to play a team like the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament.

The bottom line is that Carolina is a good team, but they’re expected to be here. The program has made it to 18 Final Fours, more than any other school in the country, stacked up against only two for the Friars.

However, March is about which team is hot at the moment. Without question, the Friars are the hotter team, winning the Big East Tournament while the Tar Heels backpedaled into the dance with two straight losses.

In March, anything can happen, maybe even a Friar victory over arguably the greatest college basketball program in the country.