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Friars blast Blue Jays, 81-68

Sunday, January 19, 2014

 

Maybe the Providence Friars have finally figured out who they are, after all.

After beginning the season with all sorts of promise with what they believed was a loaded roster, and then suffering through injury, suspension and a transfer which knocked them off their stride…the Friars found they had an “A” game after all. Against 20th ranked Creighton at the Dunkin Donuts Center Saturday night, PC controlled the tempo of the game, hit the boards on both ends and got plenty of offensive help en route to an 81-68 win over the Blue Jays.

“I’m proud of our players because winning is really, really hard,” head coach Ed Cooley said. “I think they have one of, if not the best college player in the country, but you know what? When you come to the Dunk, strange things can happen.”

Possessing one of the nation’s overall best offensive teams as well, Creighton (15-3, 5-1 Big East) entered the Dunk with a 10-game winning streak and fresh from an 88-60 pasting of Butler. The game plan for the Friars was actually a simple one – control possessions on offense, and make the Jays take tough two’s, rather than light it up from three-point range. The major concern was Creighton’s three-point prowess, as they came in with a nation-leading 11.2 made three’s per game, led by national player-of-the-year candidate Doug McDermott. They were held to just four by the Friar defense and McDermott failed to get even one of those.

Mission accomplished on all fronts.

PC led from wire to wire in this one, with an early 12-4 run giving the Friars a 16-7 lead in the opening six minutes. Creighton managed a 14-6 run of their own to pull within one at 22-21, after guard Austin Chatman scored on a drive to the basket. But each time the Jays got close, the Friars were there to answer…LaDontae Henton (19 points, six rebounds), Kadeem Batts (13 points, nine rebounds) and Bryce Cotton (23 points, six assists) each hit for key scores when CU made a push. An 8-2 run in the final 3:10 of the half gave Providence a 37-30 lead at the break.

The second half was more of the same from the first half – only better for the Friars. Working the shot clock down under 10 seconds on almost every possession, PC began with seven straight points to open up their first double-digit lead…capped by a Josh Fortune trey. After Devin Brooks scored underneath on a pretty feed from McDermott to get Creighton within 11, Providence ran off nine straight points from there. Cotton, Henton and Fortune hit from inside and out…building an astounding 20-point lead with 13:51 still to play.

While the Blue Jays never completely packed it in, the Friars remained in control throughout. Still leading by 18 with 5:26 left, Creighton went on a 10-1 run to make it a three-possession, nine point game at 73-64 with 1:35 remaining. A few rare misses at the free throw line from Cotton were finally corrected at the end with well-timed successful attempts from Cotton and Tyler Harris (10 points, five rebounds)…and CU could not get any closer. In front of a crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the Friars (13-5, 3-2 Big East) had their first win of the season over a Top 25 team – a win that should have some legs to it when it comes down to post-season possibilities.

For now, however, it’s just another win…the second in three nights after a double-overtime gut check win at St. John’s on Thursday, and another looms on Tuesday against Big East newcomer Butler. A well-designed game plan worked to perfection Saturday…with a gritty effort on the floor. It might not be the team anyone thought would start the season…but now it appears to be a team ready to finish it.

Friar Notes

All five Providence starters reached double-digits in scoring (Cotton 23, his 8th straight game with 20+ points; Henton 19, Batts 13, Harris 10 and Fortune 10)…Batts pulled down a game-high nine rebounds to give Providence a 33-27 edge on the boards. Defensively, junior Carson Desrosiers recorded three blocks, all coming in the second half…with Batts and Harris in foul trouble much of the second half, PC got a huge lift from Desrosiers and senior Ted Bancroft off of the bench…the Friars shot a season-best 51% from the floor, 35% from three and hit just 72% from the line (still leading the nation in FT’s at 80%)…the win for PC snapped a 10-game Creighton win streak, 6th longest in the country coming into the game. Over the previous 392 minutes played during the streak, the Blue Jays had led for all but 26 minutes total in those 10 games. They never led in 40 minutes at the Dunk Saturday night…CU averaged a nation-best 11.2 made three’s, shooting better than 43% from the arc, but hit just four-of-19 against the Friar man-to-man defense…McDermott led the Blue Jays with 21 points, four below his Big East-best average, and was apparently fighting off a stomach bug prior to the tip off. Should he claim a 3rd straight 1st team all-American berth this year, McDermott would follow in the footsteps of only two other 3-time 1st team all-Americans – Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale…Junior guard Devin Brooks (Harlem, NY) was the only other Jay in double figures with 10. 6-7 senior Ethan Wragge, leading the Big East in three’s at 50%, managed just 2-for-8 on the night for eight points. He did, however, hit the 1000-point mark for his career in the game…Creighton had won their previous three road games each by double-digit margins…for PC, it’s their first win of the year over a Top 25 team (now 1-3) and the first since a 71-54 win over then #21 Notre Dame last season (2/16/13)…the game also marked the 11th meeting all-time between the Friars and Blue Jays, with PC leading the series 7-4. The last game was played in 2000 (a CU win in Kansas City) and the last Friar win came in 1981…Big East newcomer #2 plays Tuesday night at the Dunk with the Butler Bulldogs coming in for a 9:00 pm tip (8:45 pre-game on 103.7 FM and friars.com)…
 

 

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