Bears close out Friars’ season, 79-68
Thursday, March 28, 2013
In the end, there simply wasn't enough gas left in the tank.
Throughout the entire 2012-13 season, depth issues plagued Providence from time to time, only to have coach Ed Cooley and his staff figure out ways to overcome those deficiencies...whether it was shortening the bench, getting unexpected performances from seldom-used players, or just plain luck.
If there was any luck at all, it ran out Wednesday night in Waco, TX, along with the gas. Baylor beat Providence 79-68 to move onto the NIT semi-finals, where they will face BYU next Tuesday. PC (19-15) closes out the season, but didn't go down without a real fight in the Heart O' Texas.
"I thought we played well for 34 minutes," Cooley said afterward, "and then I thought we got tired. I thought their depth was better and they are a talented team."
Indeed, the Bears (21-14) are talented, enough so to be ranked in the Top 25 early in the season, and having reached two Elite 8's in the past four years in the NCAA Tournament. But a team that had trouble sustaining any consistency throughout the season may have found its stride in the post-season, as Baylor's offense has averaged 94 points in three NIT wins over Long Beach State, Arizona State and Providence. After starting off with a 10-4 run out of the gate using their flex "pass-first" offensive scheme, the Bears caught up to what the Friars were doing.
And roared back.
A 15-2 run gave Baylor a 19-12 lead with 10:43 to play in the first half...a lead the Bears managed to maintain until the very end, when Bryce Cotton (23 points) hit a three for a 33-32 edge, and another at the halftime buzzer to send PC into the lockerroom with a 38-38 tie. Cotton did not score until 6:05 was left in the half, and then closed with a fury...scoring 14 of the final 16 Providence points over that span.
Cotton's first-half close didn't carry over to the start of the second half, however, as Baylor punched out seven straight points to open up the second period. Behind 5-10 senior point guard Pierre Jackson and 6-9 jumping jack junior forward Cory Jefferson, the Bears stayed relentless inside and out. Closing to within two at 51-49 with 12:52 left, Jefferson pounded away inside. After the Friars tied the score at 53 following a Vincent Council (21 points) jumper, a Jackson three put Baylor back up two minutes later.
There simply was no let up in the Bears. Even though a Cotton three gave PC a 59-58 lead with 8:26 to play, Baylor's relentless attack began to wear the Friars down at this point. A three-point play by Jefferson put BU up six with 7:00 remaining, and another three-point play by Jackson kept Baylor up six with 3:52 left. In between, Cotton, Council and Kadeem Batts (20 points, 8 rebounds) did their best to keep pace.
Until the tank hit empty with just under three minutes to play.
"I'm proud of our guys. We've come a long way with our program, a long way," Cooley said to the assembled media before climbing onto a bus to begin the long journey home. "From being picked last in our league to coming this far in March - with a short roster - I couldn't be prouder of our progress. I'm really looking forward to next year."
Especially since his team should have a full tank of gas, at the very least, whenever they hit the floor again.
Bryce Cotton's mother Yvonne and a small group of family members made the 16-hour trek from Tucson, AZ to see the Friars play in Waco...Cotton's 23 points led PC, while Council's 21 points was a season high in his final game in a Friar uniform. After Batts' 20, only Kris Dunn (4 points) managed to score...LaDontae Henton was held scoreless (with eight rebounds) for the first time in his career, as he was matched up against bigger players most of the night...Jefferson led all scorers with a career-high tying 26 points, and Jackson, a former national junior college player of the year from Las Vegas, NV, scored 20 and added 13 assists. His performance comes on the heels of a 26-point, 16 assist game last week in a win over Arizona State...Baylor shot 52% from the floor, the eighth time this season the PC defense has allowed an opponent to hit more than half of its' shots. Providence was 0-8 this year when that happened...PC managed to shoot 47% themselves and outrebounded a bigger Baylor team 33-30. 22% from the arc (4-18) and only forcing five Bears' turnovers didn't help PC's cause. That, and being outscored 20-6 from the free throw line provided the difference...a search through the PC record book indicates the Friars have never won a game played in the state of Texas. The loss to Baylor, two losses last year on South Padre Island, and two losses to Texas in Austin are now added to a lone loss to Houston in 1965...