The Providence College men’s basketball team gave No.20 Notre Dame all it could handle for 30 minutes of action Friday night, but the Irish were too much for the Friars in the second half, as Notre Dame pulled away to earn a 75-69 victory inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
Providence (15-16, 4-14 BIG EAST) trailed by just three (31-28) at the break, but Notre Dame (21-10, 13-5 BIG EAST) used runs of 11-2 and 15-0 in the second half to build a double-digit lead the Friars could not overcome, despite a furious comeback in the game’s final minutes.
Junior guard Vincent Council paced the Friars with his ninth double-double of the season, posting 17 points and a game-high 10 assists in 40 minutes of action. Council – who entered the game leading the BIG EAST with 7.4 assists per contest – recorded his eighth game with 10 or more helpers on the year. Sophomore guard Gerard Coleman added 17 points, including 11 in the second half, while freshman forward LaDontae Henton notched his 10th double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
GoLocalProv: Friars fall short, Irish fight back to win 75-69
Despite some cold outside shooting during the first half, PC managed to stay in the game on the road with 20th ranked Notre Dame – trailing by only three at halftime.
Then, the trap door opened. And the Friars fell through it.
Paced by 6-9 junior center Jack Cooley’s dominating first half performance, the Fighting Irish fought through their own shooting woes and caught fire against the Friar defense to open the second half, and held off a late run to win 75-69 at the Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, IN.
Cooley scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first half, hitting 7 of 10 shots. He finished 10 for 15 from the field.
“He made a couple of shots and he’s a physically imposing post player. But I thought we played great position defense,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “There were a lot of ticky-tack things around the basket, but that’s how they saw it and how they called it.”
Chicago Tribune: Notre Dame clinches Big East double bye
Double bye in hand, Irish coach Mike Brey redirected his team’s attention to what they planned to do with it.
“I said in there, last year’s group only got to Friday,” Brey said. “We couldn’t get to Saturday. I really want that for our program and feel that’s another building block. Now it’s going to be hard to do. But when you get the double bye, you’re in better position to do it.”
A combination of Brey substituting a bit too freely too early and the Irish losing a little of their edge so quickly managed to make it interesting. Down big, Providence scored 12 unanswered points in 1:59 to get within 13 and create a little drama. After leaving to an ovation on Senior Night with 2:27 remaining, Martin had to hustle back in for the final minute to help solve the Providence pressure.
The Friars got within six in the final 55 seconds.
“It,” Brey said, “kind of got a little weird.”
Vincent Council led the Friars (15-16, 4-14) with 17 points.
“To try and come back from a very large deficit is always hard on the road,” said coach Ed Cooley. “I am very proud of the resiliency of our guys.”
Friar Basketball: Providence Interior Exposed in South Bend
Yes, having a Jack Cooley would have made the Friars significantly better in 2011-12, but it also served as a reminder of how important it will be for Providence’s Cooley to either find or develop a few big men capable of defending the paint and clearing the glass next season.
The additions of Kris Dunn, Ricardo Ledo and Josh Fortune are only going to make the Friars that much more explosive in the 1-3 positons next season. The difference between being an explosive offensive team and a contender for an NCAA Tournament bid will be in how the power forward and center spots comes together over the next six months.