The Providence College men’s basketball team (12-10, 1-8 BIG EAST) fell to the South Florida Bulls (13-9, 6-3 BIG EAST) by the score of 81-78, on Sunday, January 29 in Tampa, Fla. Despite shooting 53.8-percent from behind the arc, 79.2-percent from the free throw line and 45.6-percent from the field, Providence could not seal the victory.
Freshman LaDontae Henton (Lansing, Mich.) led all players in scoring with a career-high 33 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals. Bryce Cotton (Tucson, Ariz.) registered 16 points and five rebounds while junior guard Vincent Council (Brooklyn, N.Y.) added 10 points and a game-high seven assists.
GoLocalProv: Bulls Rush at the end, hold off Friars 81-78
With a big, physical front line, USF has been able to match up well with most teams on its’ schedule, and the Bulls entered the game with a 5-3 mark in Big East play. Led by a defense ranked at the top of the league (and 13th nationally) in points allowed at 58 points per game, South Florida has steadily improved throughout the season.
But in the first half Sunday, the Friars managed to find freshman forward LaDontae Henton open inside and out – and “Buckets” led the way with 24 points in the opening 20 minutes. Leading by as much as seven in the period, PC ended the half tied at 39 – with the 39 points scored the most USF has allowed in the first half of any game this season.
Offense, however, wasn’t the problem.
“I don’t think we played great,” said coach Stan Heath, whose team is 11-1 at home this season. “Normally our defense has been our staple, but our offense kicked in. … I thought some guys stepped up at some key, key moments.”
Tampa Bay Online: Team effort lifts USF past Providence
Heath said he felt “fortunate” to defeat Providence, which got a superb performance from freshman forward LaDontae Henton (33 points). Henton had five 3-pointers and a career-high 24 points just 17 minutes into the game, but only attempted three field-goal attempts after halftime.
“In the second half, we tried to stay attached to him and not give him open looks,” said USF guard Hugh Robertson, who was among a multitude of defenders trying to check Henton.
Friar Basketball: Henton Explodes in First, Friars Falter in Second
Probably more concerning to Cooley is the defense. The lowest scoring team in the Big East (309th in the country) broke 80 points for only the third time this year (81 versus Marist, 83 against Florida A&M) and for the third straight game the Friars were done in by their inability to defend the three point line.
An atrocious outside shooting team went 5-5 from beyond the arc down the stretch, after starting just 1-10 from deep. Cooley’s game plan was to dare Anthony Collins to beat him from deep, and the freshman with the funky looking jump shot hit a pair of “give-me-a-break” threes in the final eight minutes of the second half.
Sports Page Magazine: USF Shares the Wealth in, 81-78, Win over Providence
“That goes to show how deep our team is,” said Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who scored 13 points for the Bulls (13-9, 6-3). “We have guys that can make things happen.”
USF committed only five turnovers and had 17 assists while improving to 11-1 at home this season. The Bulls were coming off a 67-47 loss to No. 17/18 Marquette on Tuesday when they committed 22 turnovers.
“We put that behind us and everybody came together,” Robertson said. “We worked on being tough with the ball in practice and it paid off in the game.”