Saturday afternoon’s 73-63 win over Mississippi State was a roller coaster of emotions. From the get go, the Friars dominated the Bulldogs and it looked like they would coast to an easy victory in the Big East / SEC Challenge. We did this for you, BIG EAST! Then, Bryce Cotton was fouled on a three pointer late in the 1st half (seriously, do you know any player who gets fouled more on threes than Cotton??), and came down awkwardly hurting his knee. Ice didn’t return for the 2nd half, and is going to get an MRI to see what’s up according to Ed Cooley in the postgame. Without Cotton, the “Sexy Six” held down the fort and the laugher continued on strong with Providence leading by as much as 26 points. However, Mississippi State woke up late in the game, and came ridiculously close to a monster comeback that would have just kicked Friartown while they were down. In the end, PC held on to beat a very terrible Mississippi State team, but may have to deal with a serious injury to their best player to date.
Why Providence won: In the pregame, I mentioned that Kadeem Batts needed to produce and be more aggressive in order to take some of the pressure off of Cotton. Batts must be an avid reader of Friarblog (READER COUNT UP TO 4!), because he was fantastic from the get go. Long range jumpers, aggresive drives to the hoop, baby hooks — you name it, Batts was scoring. Mississippi State didn’t have an answer for him, and they dug themselves into a big hole. The PC defense showed a lot of hustle, and forced their opponent to rely on long range shots they couldn’t hit. When the Bulldogs came roaring back in crunch-time, the Friars held it together and executed under pressure while shorthanded once again.
Why Mississippi State Lost: The Bulldogs offense was basically non-existant for the first 35 minutes of the game, and the team finished 2-22 from behind the arc. Offensive rebounding kept them from getting even more blown out in the first, but it seems like they could have capitalized more on their 17 offensive rebounds (they did get 18 second chance points). Mississippi State used their full court pressure to finally wear down the Friars late in the 2nd half to almost erase a big deficit, but it was simply too late. Bryce Cotton missed the entire 2nd half of the game due to injury, but their defense could not fully capitalize on PC having no ball handlers and only 6 available players.
Turning point: You could say the turning point of the game was when Bryce Cotton was injured, leaving the Friars with a very depleted team and two guards. However, the Friars kept dominating Mississippi State for most of the 2nd half as the Bulldogs inexplicably didn’t feel like pressing like mad men until about 5-6 minutes left in the game. What was a 26 point lead suddenly shrunk to as low as 5 points after Bulldog guard Fred Thomas hit a three pointer with 46 seconds left. The Friars turned over the ball yet again after Kadeem Batts pushed it up the court, putting Brice Kofane in a tough situation in which he coughed up the ball. Mississippi State got fouled on the other end with a chance to cut the lead to one possession, but Roquez Johnson missed both freebies. Providence was able to regain their composure, hit some foul shots and finally get some stops to close out the game.
Player of the Game: Even when Bryce Cotton was playing in the first half, Kadeem Batts was still dominate offensively. Everything Batts threw up was simply going in, and he finished with a career high 32 points on 12-18 shooting.
Offensive Play of the Game: Josh Fortune only had seven points, but this coast to coast 360 spin move was pretty sweet.
Defensive Play of the Game: Kadeem Batts had three blocks today, two which were fast break attempts that he was able to pin against the backboard. On his 2nd one, Ted Bancroft followed it up with another pin of his own, but they called a foul on him.
Super Ted: Cotton goes out, and Ted Bancroft again shows what a tough player he is. White Lightning finished with 7 rebounds, 4 points, 2 assists, and TWO BLOCKS.
Perfect Buckets: LaDontae Henton had another very good all around game, despite not shooting the ball all that much. His 8 field goal attempts (and only one three!) was the fewest he has taken all season. However, Buckets was a perfect 8-8 from the foul line (including two big ones with PC up 6 with under a minute to go, and another two with 18 seconds left) and he finished with 18 points.
Rick Ray Face:
Bow tie of the Game: Ricky Ledo
How I Feel Awaiting Bryce Cotton’s Status: