Well, it happened. It finally happened. Down at the half, nothing going our way, and Providence’s second half comeback resulted in a 69-66 win instead of a moral victory. And, not to mention, Providence won in the scrappiest way possible. I mean, 55 total fouls for the game? Each team had two players foul out of the game? What was that?
But hey, we’ll get into that after the jump!
Brick!: Let’s start by talking about some things that didn’t exist. Unicorns. Manti T’eo’s girlfriend. Providence offense and foul shooting.
The field goal shooting was bad. Really, really bad. The Friars managed only to connect on 33% for the game, including a God-awful first half which saw the Friars hit 6 of their 30 attempts. In fact, so many shots would go up, clank around the rim, and then bounce off, you wouldn’t be crazy to at least suspect there were magnets pushing the ball away from the hoop.
Free throw shooting, somehow, was even worse. The Friars have no doubt hit a skit in their free throw shooting, and this is one of the select few stats you can argue “well the other team shut us down because…” no. Doesn’t work. They’re FREE throws. Nobody is guarding you, nobody is in your face. Hell you get to stand still and take your time while everyone watches. And we only managed to hit 29 of our 48 attempts. Villanova gave us a ton of help getting to the line (we’ll get to that shortly) but a Big East team going 0-6 and then 3-11 to start your attempts is totally unacceptable. Even Bryce Cotton, the hot hand of the Friars night in and night out, acknowledged this was his worst shooting performance since he’d arrived to Providence.
Why gripe about the offense – clearly it was enough to win, right? Well, yes, in the end we got the offense going enough to squeak out a win, but truthfully the offense had almost no true impact in why we won this matchup. In fact, the reason we won is the same reason we beat Seton Hall, and the same thing that Cooley has been preaching since day one, and that reason is…
DEFENSE!: We won because of DEFENSE! It was DEFENSE! The thing we annually sucked at and were publicly ridiculed for thanks to the past head coach was the reason we WON! TWICE!
We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve had to claw our way back into the game when being down at the half. Pretty much none of those games went our way. When we were down 31-24 at the half (not a huge margin mind you) I was nervous. First of all, every win we’ve had has come from when we kept an opponent under 30 by halftime. Secondly, our offense wasn’t flowing well and we couldn’t convert on anything. Completely stopping Nova was imperative in order to win. And boy, did the team deliver.
Full court presses. Traps. Locking down and challenging everything. No easy shots. The Friars did all of this, and it showed both in the box and in the performance. The Friars forced 25 turnovers and stole the ball away 12 times. They scored 30 points off turnovers and 14 on second chances, partly thanks to grabbing 19 offensive boards. Villanova wouldn’t make it easy on us, their defense was just as scrappy and they knew that if they fouled we would have trouble converting (we’ll go there next), but we got the job done. Granted shooting 50% from the field in the second half helped us tremendously, but we’ve seen the Friars go on scoring marathons, only to be matched at the other end of the floor (cough, Brown, cough). That didn’t happen this time. It couldn’t happen. In the end this wasn’t the offense that won the game, but the defense.
Of course, none of that would have mattered had things turned out a little different. I’m talking specifically about one bone headed move…
Damn it Kris!: We were up five. There were 26 seconds left. The Friars were inbounding the ball. Bryce Cotton looked for Kris Dunn, who was getting smothered by Ryan Arcidiacono, and went for a pass. Dunn stumbled to the right and seemingly fell into the courtside seats. Dunn turned back around, put both hands on Arcidiacono, and shoved. Not hard, not with his entire body, just a ‘hey, back off’ type of shove. Arcidiacono fell to the floor with a smile across his face. The refs deliberated and eventually ruled a tech on Dunn, and Nova converted on both free throws and got the ball back for a chance to tie the game with a three.
Now, I am by no means an expert, but I was literally sitting five seats away from where this all took place. I was so close to these two players I could’ve pet them. I saw Dunn get shoved in front of me, and I saw Dunn shove back. It was correct to call a technical foul on Dunn, that was stupid and cost us the game (personally I felt it should’ve been a double T but that’s irrelevant). Cooley was, to put it gently, fucking pissed. As well he should’ve been. I have no doubt tensions were running high (there were 55 fouls for the game, both teams saw two key players foul out) and it was clearly a freshman mistake. Dunn was in the right – he was getting pushed around and it wasn’t right, the refs should’ve seen that (they, like myself, were right there) but they didn’t, and honestly that’s not a big deal.
It’s forgivable, and it’s a good teaching experience, but having seen it unravel I felt compelled to note that Dunn was reacting (stupidly) to being pushed around more than he was just feeling the need to provoke. I’m glad they won the game, but…
Player of the Game: Well he didn’t have a great shooting game according to his post game presser, but Bryce Cotton was the reason the Friars won. His three at the end of the game ensured the Friars would hang on and not be overcome by the Wildcats. Oh, and his post game banter with Cooley was hysterical (see below).
The “Intervention” Performance: This has to have some explanation to it, but if there is an explanation I don’t know what it is. Am I expecting too much? Is he regressing? Just frustrated? Sophomore slump? Whatever it is LaDontae Henton, I hope you figure it out. You’re a great player with a huge amount of potential, but something’s been up with you lately. Please, fix it.
Post Game Press Conference: Cooley and Bryce Cotton talk about the win in this post game press conference.