Friars clamp down, shut down Bulls
Thursday, February 14, 2013
It took a half, and perhaps a spirited halftime talk…but the Friars found their mojo again, this time in Tampa, FL.
Trailing by a 36-25 score at halftime against USF, Providence turned in a stifling defensive effort for the first 7:09 of the second half – holding the Bulls scoreless during that time in a 17-0 run – and used the momentum to beat South Florida 76-66 at the Sun Dome.
The Friars began the game looking very much like a team that had just enjoyed a week’s vacation in the tropics…as opposed to just having had the week off from Big East play. USF jumped out on a 19-5 run after the opening minute of play to take a 20-7 lead with 12:36 remaining in the first half. After PC managed to pull back within three with 8:53 left, the Bulls charged ahead with another 14-3 burst…leaving the Friars in the dust with a 34-20 advantage just before the half.
Victor Rudd (26 points, 12 rebounds) and Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (14 points) – two returning starters from last seasons’ 22-win NCAA team – were strong both inside and outside largely against a man-to-man defensive set, giving PC plenty to consider as the Friars trailed by 11 at the break.
Somehow, whatever message might have been sent at the half connected with the team to start the second period. Continuing in a man-to-man set, Providence played tougher on the ball and denied the penetration guard Anthony Collins had enjoyed in the first. Combined with a Vincent Council three, a Kris Dunn driving deuce and free throws from LaDontae Henton (19 points, 8 rebounds), a staggered Bulls squad – losers of six straight coming into this game – called timeout in the opening two minutes.
It was then that Providence delivered a right cross, buckling the Bulls’ knees.
Bryce Cotton (13 points), Kadeem Batts (24 points, 6 rebounds), Henton and Dunn (4 points, 5 boards) all contributed over the next six minutes on offense, while the defense shut USF down and out. The Bulls missed their first 10 shots of the second half, with PC outscoring South Florida 17-0 over the opening 7:09 of the period. The run extended to 23-2 with 11:16 left before the Bulls could manage another field goal.
USF managed to connect on just one of their first 12 second half shots, as the Friars’ lead grew to as much as 14 (56-42) with 7:45 to play…a 28-point turnaround in about 14 minutes of game time.
Even though South Florida (10-14, 1-11 Big East) did close on several occasions, eventually pulling within five points (66-61) with 1:52 left, PC was able to answer every Bulls charge with a big shot of their own. Free-throws sealed the win in the end, with the Friars hitting eight in a row from the line in the final two minutes.
Providence (13-11, 5-7 Big East) not only found its mojo again, the Friars also found the win column again as well…their 3rd straight in Big East play.
The difference in play from the first half to the second half was remarkable. While the Friars managed just 37% shooting in the opening period, PC came out blazing in the second…connecting with 64% of their shots. Overall, Providence shot 51% for the game, just the third time this season they hit more than half of their attempts…the 51 second half points were the most in a half this season for the Friars…PC also shot a sterling 21-for-25 from the foul line for the game, an 84% clip…Council scored 11 points and added eight assists, pulling him within three assists of breaking Ernie DiGregorio’s school career record…Rudd’s double-double for the Bulls was matched by a 12-point, 10-assist double-double from pre-season 2nd team all-Big East guard Anthony Collins, whose penetration gave the Friar defense fits early in the game…the Friars were outrebounded 34-28, but committed just six turnovers (a season low) and assisted on 22 (2nd most this year) of their 25 total made field goals…USF connected on 16 field goals in the first half in getting out to their halftime lead, after the PC defense had held Cincinnati to 18 total field goals and Villanova to 14 in the entire previous two games…Providence had lost five of six to South Florida before Wednesday night’s matchup, but now leads the overall series with the Bulls 7-6…in limiting USF to 66 points, the Friars are now 13-1 on the year when holding opponents under 68 points…PC’s three straight Big East wins is their best winning streak in league play since 2009…the Friars will have a chance to make it four straight Saturday, with 21st-ranked Notre Dame coming into the Dunkin Donuts Center for a 12 Noon Alumni Weekend tip-off (pre-game 11:45 am on 103.7 FM)…