Friars drop Big East Tourney opener to Cincinnati
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
To borrow an analogy from the MMA - if this had been a fight, Cincinnati's Bearcats would have forced the Friars to tap out.
Using a suffocating defense, Cincinnati started strong and belted PC 61-44 Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York. While Cincinnati gets a Thursday quarterfinal date with top-seeded Georgetown, the Friars are now forced to wait out the NCAA and NIT selection process to see if there might still be post-season play in their future.
The Bearcats' energy was evident from the start of the noontime game, as their defense applied pressure to the PC guards by overplaying the passing lanes, and defending them tightly on the outside. The Friars (17-14 overall) simply could not find their way to the forwards inside, setting the stage for an unsightly first half. A 22-6 run by UC put them on top 26-8, with just 6:25 to play...that the Friars managed to score eight points in almost 14 minutes was a by-product of the Bearcats' intensity.
"I thought my young guys were a little nervous to start," Ed Cooley said afterward, clearly deflecting criticism away from his undergrad players, matched up with an experienced team that reached the NCAA's Sweet 16 a season ago. "I don't think the start won the game for them. I thought the 40 minutes bothered us more so than anything. A lot of errors."
Providence managed to close the first half on a 15-5 run to pull within eight at the break, 31-23.
After LaDontae Henton (eight points, eight rebounds) and Kris Dunn (four points, seven boards) scored inside to start the second half, the Friars found themselves down just four, 31-27, in the opening three minutes. That's where UC's experience and poise came through, with Cheikh Mbodj, Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick scoring on three straight possessions to go back up by 10 with 15:25 left.
The lead stayed in the six-to-eight point range over the next 10 minutes, as Providence simply could not crack Cincinnati's defense for anything easy. It was still a six-point game, 43-37, with 5:12 left...when Kilpatrick (17 points) buried a three to provide some real breathing room.
Kind of like an MMA fighter who has been taken down, tapping out in order to get his opponent off of his back. Or front, for that matter. The Bearcats were simply all over PC Wednesday.
"You've got to credit Cincinnati," Cooley said. "I think they played well. that's one of the better games they've probably played in the last three or four weeks. Credit them and their energy that they came out with, to take us out of some of the things we wanted to do.
"We had the game right where we wanted it," he added. "You're not going to win many games scoring 60 points. Wow. If you had told me before the game that they have 60, I'd say we've got a great shot at winning the basketball game."
1-for-16 shooting from three-point range - a season low - won't allow for too many chances at a comeback. As such, the Bearcats stay to play another day at the Garden, while the Friars try to figure out what went wrong...and whether they have any life left in this season.
Wednesday's play tapped them out.
The 44 points scored by the Friars was their lowest total of the season (previous low 52 in Puerto Rico against Penn State)...it's the 5th straight loss in Big East Tournament play for PC overall, tying for the fourth longest losing streak in tournament history. Providence is now 1-10 in its last 11 games in the post-season tournament...Cincinnati (22-10 overall) has won its first game in the Big East Tournament in each of the last four years. They reached the finals last season before losing the championship game to Louisville...Kadeem Batts led PC with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Bryce Cotton was the only other player to managed double-figures, finishing with 12, more than seven below his average. UC's defense continually hounded Cotton, the Big East scoring champ and a first-team all-league player, and when he was open - he couldn't connect (0-7 from 3)...Cincinnati held Providence to 28% shooting overall, outrebounding the Friars 46-40. JaQuon Parker added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Bearcats...PC had just seven turnovers for the game, but when you shoot just 6% from outside the arc (1-16), it's tough to find any offensive rhythm..."I think our program has come a long way in the last year," Cooley said. "But our program isn't ready for that moment yet. Cincinnati has won six games in the last three years in this building. Providence hasn't won in this building in I don't know how many years. So it's my job. I need to do a better job educating our kids on how to play in the moment, and we're just not there yet." PC will await its post-season fate following the NCAA selection show Sunday to see where - or even if - the Friars have a game to play in the NIT...former Big East Associate Commissioner (and URI athletic director) Tom McElroy has been "working the room" while in NYC, and could emerge as a potential candidate for commissioner of the new Big East. The athletic directors of the "Catholic 7" met Wednesday morning here in New York to begin the process of planning for a commissioner, for inviting schools and programs to join them, and for putting the pieces of their new league together...