Friars bump off Bearcats, 54-50
Thursday, February 07, 2013
If there was ever any doubt about defense winning games in the Big East...that doubt is surely gone by now.
With 17th ranked Cincinnati coming into the Dunkin Donuts Center Wednesday night as one of the top defensive teams in the league, as well as one of the top rebounding teams in the country, the Friars' task would be tough enough. What the Bearcats probably didn't count on, however, was an equally suffocating defensive effort from Providence, and the end result was a 54-50 PC win...their first over a nationally-ranked team this season.
It's also the first win over a Top 25 team for the Friars since an upset over Louisville in January of last season.
The difference tonight for PC came from a stronger start to the game. After suffering through several slow starts to earlier Big East games this year, usually coming through defensive lapses, the Friars started strong and stayed strong throughout. A 14-2 run in the first half put Providence up 18-8 with 7:40 remaining, with Kadeem Batts (25 points, 9 rebounds) and Lee Goldsbrough leading the way. It was Goldsbrough's play in particular, that his teammates used to energize their own efforts.
"Lee was big-time today," coach Ed Cooley said. "It's not in the stats but the little things, the game-changing things he did were big."
Goldsbrough scored six points in the paint during the run, and later provided much needed toughness and a strong defensive effort in the post against a huge Cincinnati front line. The Bearcats managed to pull within 22-19 with 1:47 left in the half, but two Batts' jump shots thereafter provided the Friars with a 26-21 cushion at the break.
The Bearcats came out to start the second half with their own stepped-up defensive play, and an effort to push the ball inside against the undersized Friars. The lead was cut to 30-29 after a Sean Kilpatrick three-pointer, and with 16:18 to play, PC could have easily knuckled-under.
Instead, they buckled down. A 13-2 run led by two Bryce Cotton three's gave Providence a huge lift, and a 12-point lead with 11:30 to play. That the Friars were able to lead at all, with Cotton held scoreless by the Bearcats' defense in the first half, was due to their own defensive play.
It was still a 13-point margin at 47-34 with just 6:45 to play when Cincinnati (18-5, 6-4 Big East) made its push. A JaQuon Parker three keyed a 12-0 run for the Bearcats, as they pulled within one with 3:25 remaining. Batts, Cotton and Vincent Council all missed shots during the run that could have easily gone in...but didn't. The difference-maker in this one, came from the other end of the court.
Holding on to a 50-48 lead with 2:07 left, PC's defense forced four straight misses by Kilpatrick, Shaquille Thomas, Parker and Cashmere Wright...before LaDontae Henton finally grabbed a rebound with 1:01 to play. And even though the stretch run was an adventure in itself as Batts missed four of his last seven tries from the free throw line, he hit the final two with two seconds left - that counted the most.
Coupled with a strong defensive effort on the road last Sunday in Philadelphia over Villanova, the two wins give the Friars (12-11, 4-7 Big East) some life heading into an off-week before play at South Florida next Wednesday. And if the Friars might not have completely bought into what Ed Cooley was trying to sell earlier in the year, surely now they're paying attention.
The proof is in the end result.
Cotton, the Big East's leading scorer (5th nationally) at 21.4 points per game going in, was held scoreless in the first half by Cincinnati's defenders. Using primarly three different players (Wright, Parker and Kilpatrick) against him, Cotton managed to miss the four shots he took in the opening 20 minutes. Two huge threes, plus a foul on a third attempt that resulted in three made free throws early in the second half, turned things around a bit...the Bearcats were held to just 18 made field goals for the game (in 48 attempts, 37%), which tied their season-low total. The 50 points they scored was a season-low...Kilpatrick, a pre-season first team all-Big East selection, led UC with 13 points (5.5 below his average), while Parker chipped in 12 points and a game high 10 rebounds...Batts' big night was backed up by 11 second half points from Cotton...Henton scored a career-low two points on just 1-for-6 from the floor, and had six rebounds before fouling out with 45 seconds left...PC shot 43% from the floor, but managed to hit just 2-for-17 from three. UC outrebounded the Friars 38-31, but PC forced 15 Bearcat turnovers and scored 17 points off of those mistakes...Goldsbrough's effort also included four offensive rebounds, taking three offensive foul charges in the first half, and it was his poke at the ball with two seconds to play that forced the final turnover of the ball game...Providence is off until Wednesday night Feb. 13, when they'll face South Florida's Bulls in Tampa, FL...