Friars fall at Xavier, 59-53
Saturday, February 08, 2014
It’s a rare day when Bryce Cotton finds the going tough – tough enough to keep him from being a difference-maker for the Providence Friars.
That rare day came Saturday in Cincinnati, OH, as the Xavier Musketeers (16-7, 6-4 Big East) held Cotton below 10 points for just the second time all season - he finished with nine - and the Musketeers held off the Friars 59-53 at the Cintas Center to reclaim 3rd place in the Big East standings.
Cotton was also forced into two crucial, uncharacteristic turnovers as well late in the game that kept PC from turning the corner and perhaps gaining the lead…as the Musketeers put the clamps on the Friar senior like few others have been able to do this year.
But it wasn’t all about the Xavier defense in this one. Fighting back from a six point deficit, 54-48, with 8:21 to play, the Friar defenders held XU scoreless for seven minutes…yet could not take control, thanks in part to the play of Xavier’s Semaj Christon. Providence (16-8, 6-5 Big East) pulled within one after LaDontae Henton hit one of two free throws with 1:22 left on the clock. Then, with the score at 55-53, the super-sophomore guard from Cincinnati stole the ball from Cotton on a simple cross-over move, driving the length of the floor before passing it off to Isaiah Philmore for a dunk that gave XU some breathing room at 57-53.
Following a Friar timeout, Christon’s defensive prowess again came into play as a Cotton pass to the wing intended for Henton was tipped, resulting in another crucial mistake that all but sealed the decision for Xavier. After Kadeem Batts fouled out of the game with :27 seconds remaining, Justin Martin hit two free throws to put the game out of reach, leaving PC on the short side of the scoreboard.
The Friars managed a 32-31 lead at halftime, thanks in part to their own defensive play on the floor. They limited a good-shooting Musketeer team to just 1-for-7 from three-point range, outrebounded the top rebounding team in the league in the half, and PC sophomore guard Josh Fortune was able to take advantage of the Xavier defensive emphasis on Cotton by scoring 12 first-half points (finishing with 17 for the game). But an alarming number stood out on the halftime box score – just three free-throws attempted for the #1 free-throw shooting team in the country.
And that number didn’t change much in the second half. After a Batts jumper gave PC a three-point lead in the opening minute, Xavier bolted with a 9-2 run to grab the momentum, if not control of the game…until the final minutes. Providence closed within two points on three occasions over the final 17 minutes – again, pulling within one with 1:22 to play – but they could not overtake the Musketeers at the end. Credit XU for a defensive effort that held PC to 37% shooting (missing 11 of their final 13 shots) and just seven free throws attempted for the entire game. They knew exactly what to do with the game on the line.
So did the Friars, by getting the ball in their all-American candidate’s hands. But this time, the other team’s defense shut Cotton down, especially at the end of the day when it counted most.
And that has been a rare day this season for Providence.
The nine points scored by Cotton were his second fewest in a game this season, with only Brown able to also keep him in single-digits (six points on November 13th). Bryce did have seven assists, and continues to lead the Big East in assists and minutes played - he played all 40 minutes for a 9th straight game…Fortune’s 17 points were a season high (scoring 15 against Boston College), including 3-of-7 from beyond the arc and a season-best eight rebounds…Henton was the only other Friar in double-figures with 14 points, and Carson Desrosiers contributed a Providence-high 11 rebounds as PC out-boarded XU by a 39-32 margin…the Friars, #1 in the Big East in offensive rebounds, had 12 of those off of the glass but had trouble converting from close range against the physical Musketeers…Providence attempted a season-low seven free throws for the entire game, making a season-low five of those, against largely a man-to-man defensive effort…Christon (held to 12 points, five below his average) spent most of the game shadowing Cotton, leaving Fortune available to cash in. Josh’s performance included having to defend Christon most of the way as well…Matt Stainbrook (13 points, nine rebounds) and Justin Martin (13 points) led XU in scoring, as the Musketeers shot 43% from the floor, but only 1-of-9 from three (3rd best 3-point team in the Big East coming in)…they did, however, outscore PC 12-5 from the line, providing for much of the final margin…the Friars lost after having a halftime lead for just the 2nd time this season (now 13-2)…Xavier snapped a three-game losing streak with the win, which started on January 25th at the Dunkin Donuts Center with an 81-72 loss to the Friars. XU now has four of their next five games on the road…PC has a quick turnaround and flies to Washington, DC Saturday night for a Monday night game with Georgetown. The Hoyas beat Butler 71-63 Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Center…PC topped Georgetown 70-52 at the Dunk on January 8th…game time Monday night is 7:00 pm (pre-game 6:45 on 103.7 FM and friars.com)…
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