Disaster strikes again, Friars bulldozed 55-48
Saturday, February 11, 2012
The script for this one, if sent to Hollywood, might be rejected for pure unbelievability.
How much misfortune can a team be forced to endure, without having the basketball gods send at least one positive result their way?
Plenty - if you're the 2012 Providence Friars. For the third straight game, PC found itself with a late second half lead...and for the third straight game, the opponent found a way to win. This time, the culprits came from South Florida, as the Bulls outscored the Friars 14-2 over the final 2:30 to win 55-48 at the Dunkin Donuts Center Saturday.
The real kicker to this one, however, didn't come from a senior star or from a highly touted recruit as it did the past two games. No - this time the daggers came from seldom-used guard Shaun Noriega, who popped up off of the USF bench to drill two three-pointers in a :60 second span during the frantic stretch run, after not having played a single minute over the previous 37 minutes of the ball game. Meanwhile, the Friars weren't even converting lay ups that were open on the other end, and the end result was another potentially devastating defeat.
"Credit South Florida for winning the basketball game," PC head coach Ed Cooley said afterward. "The kid (Noriega) comes in and makes two tough shots. At any point in time, we’re in these games, it’s frustrating when your kids are giving their best effort and the basketball gods are just not on our side right now.
"I'm just totally kind of speechless, " Cooley continued. "I feel for my players, it’s just one of those days, its tough to see those kids suffer and I’ve just got to do a better job."
A slow paced, walk-it-up style of game found the Bulls leading 24-21 at the end of the first half, as USF's deliberate style of play and tough man-to-man defense never allowed the Friars to get in transition, and made their half-court offense a real struggle. South Florida had markers on the Friars who hurt them two weeks ago in an 81-78 USF win in Tampa, especially freshman LaDontae Henton. Henton torched the Bulls for a career high 33 points on January 29th, but did a solid job limiting his touches throughout the game Saturday. Henton was limited to just eight shots (making three), scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds - well below his averages of 13 and 8.
Additionally, with 6-6 Hugh Robertson marking every move that the 6-1 Bryce Cotton made on the floor, when Cotton did get shots off, he missed. Averaging 20 points per game over the past seven games, Cotton hit just two of 10 from the floor, including just one of nine from three point range, for six total points in 40 minutes of playing time. Gerard Coleman also struggled mightlily, hitting just 1-for-10 for two points.
"We missed 12 layups in the first 20 minutes of the game," Cooley added. "Unless we can come off the bench and make some shots ourselves, in our suits, you gotta make a lay up. We’re putting the kids in positions to win, and they have to make plays."
With USF holding a 30-23 lead and 15:45 to play in the second half, the Friars began a methodical rally that saw them outscore the Bulls 18-7 over the next 9:23. Leading 46-41 with 2:30 left, it seemed PC was in position again - just like against West Virginia and Villanova earlier in the past week - to win one at the finish line.
In stepped Noriega off of the bench, and even though he was well-defended on both of his shots, they both found their way through the hoop. Down five to up one in only a minute, USF never trailed again.
Game, set, match. And a sweep of both games for the Bulls this season against the Friars.
"We contested it – we scouted it…he (Noriega) plays one minute and he made two tough shots," Cooley explained. "One was falling out of bounds, the other was off a screen. He made two tough plays."
And Providence finds itself a victim again, with another gut-wrenching loss to deal with. It's a script with an all-too-familiar ending.
USF was able to salt the game away from the free throw line in the final minute, thanks in part to a technical foul call on Cooley. Cooley explained afterward his displeasure with some of the calls on the floor. "Let me tell you why I got that technical foul. I want to fight for our players. And if I feel there’s something that I need to fight for, then they (the officials) had better get used to calling technical fouls. Because I think my players deserve better than that, so I’ll fight for them." Vincent Council, the only PC player who scored in double figures (16 points), was knocked to the floor on a drive late in the game that could have given Providence late momentum. Instead, the play led to Noriega's heroics. "I don’t want to get shot by the Big East so I’ll hold my comments on that," Cooley said. "When he was at the rim, and we missed the lay up on that..." Victor Rudd led USF with his first double-double, 11 points and 10 rebounds...PC's defense was solid, limiting the Bulls to just 39% shooting from the floor, and only 26% from three. Conversely, USF's defense (ranked #2 in the Big East and 25th nationally in scoring defense) held the Friars to just 31% shooting and a mere 1-12 from outside of the three point arc...the Bulls have held 13 teams to 25 or less points in the first half (holding PC to 21)...USF also owned the glass with a 40-28 rebounding advantage. Second shots on offense for USF repeatedly hurt the Friars in the post...South Florida improves to 15-10 on the season, and 8-4 in league play. Providence falls to 13-13, and 2-11 in the Big East...the Friars head back to the road for a trip to Cincinnati and a match up with the Bearcats Wednesday night, with the tip off at 9:00 pm (103.7 WEEI-FM and www.friars.com)...