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Friars get the big play, and get the win

Monday, February 04, 2013


Big plays come and go during the course of a season, and the Providence Friars have certainly seen their fair share of them. Primarily made against them, however.

That wasn’t the case Sunday afternoon at The Pavilion in Villanova, PA. Junior guard Bryce Cotton stepped up to connect on a top-of-the-key three pointer, rattling into the hoop with 2.2 seconds remaining, and PC held on for a nail-biting 55-52 win over the Villanova Wildcats.

The key to the Friars’ 2nd road win in Big East play came from the defensive side of the ball. After another slow start that has become routine this season (falling behind 16-6 in the opening 10 minutes), Providence buckled down largely behind the play of their guards. A 23-7 run over that final 10 minutes – with both Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton getting into foul trouble – was keyed by an unlikely hero…freshman guard Josh Fortune.

Fortune, who had scored only three points total over his previous five games, hit four-for-four from outside of the three-point arc, and coupled with two more bombs from Cotton, PC managed their first halftime lead over the previous seven games, 29-23. Providence’s defense was solid during the stretch, with Nova only able to connect on four of their final 20 shots for the half.

The Wildcats weren’t going away easily, however. Undoubtedly buoyed by wins over Top 10 teams Louisville and Syracuse over the past two weeks, Villanova came out pushing the ball inside on an undermanned Friar team. A 12-2 breakout from the locker room, led by James Bell and Mouphtaou Yarou gave the Cats the lead 35-31 with 15:52 to play.

Holding a 39-35 edge with 11:36 left, and with Henton and Batts in foul trouble, the Friar guards took over. Cotton and Vincent Council hit three’s, and Fortune nailed another big one to key a 17-4 run and give PC a 52-43 advantage with just 4:17 remaining.

Villanova endured a stretch of more than eight minutes without a field goal, before a frantic finish. Pressuring the PC guards into mistakes, VU scored nine unanswered points to tie the score at 52 with less than a minute to play. With the ball, and still a little time on their side, the Friars got a big play – a big shot – to finally fall their way after several near-misses and opponents’ successes this season.

Cotton rattled home his three, with a defender in his face, to put PC up by three with 2.2 ticks left on the clock. Villanova (13-9, 4-5 Big East) did get off a final half-court shot from Yarou, but it caromed off of the backboard.

And Providence (11-11, 3-7 Big East) left The Pavilion with a win that might not have happened earlier in the year, save for the big play that finally went their way.

Friar Notes

Prior to the game, the Providence athletic department announced sophomore Sidiki Johnson has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the team. The 6-10 Johnson, a native of Harlem, NY and a transfer from the University of Arizona, averaged four points and five rebounds per game in 11 games for the Friars this season. He sat out the first semester, as per NCAA transfer rules, before becoming eligible…Villanova had led at halftime of their last 15 consecutive games prior to Sunday…Cotton led the Friars with 18 points, hitting 4-of-8 from three. He now needs just nine more points to become the 45th Friar in program history to reach 1000 for his career…Fortune had managed to connect on just two of his last 15 attempts from the floor over the past five games before torching the Wildcats for five-of-five on three’s, and scoring 15 points…both Batts and Henton fouled out of the game, which makes the end result perhaps even more remarkable. Batts finished with just two points and three rebounds in 17 minutes, Henton had four points and six boards in 19 minutes…Lee Goldsbrough was the unsung hero, stepping in for not just Batts and Henton, but also in Johnson’s absence. He finished with six points, three rebounds in 28 minutes, and had a strong defensive effort in the paint against Yarou, Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston. Pinkston averaged 24 points in two previous games against PC, and managed just nine in 20 minutes Sunday…6-6 sophomore Darrun Hilliard, the national player of the week two weeks ago for leading his Wildcats to Top 10 wins against Louisville and Syracuse, led VU with 17 points…but hit just 3-of-13 field goals. He was a perfect 10-10 from the line…Yarou had his 3rd double-double of the season with 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Ochefu contributed 12 boards but scored just one point…Cotton and Henton each had six rebounds for PC…Villanova missed 17 of their final 20 attempts from the floor, and shot a season-low 27% for the game. The Friars shot 39% overall, but hit 10-of-15 three’s to provide the difference…the game was the 134th consecutive home sell out for Villanova at their on-campus Pavilion, which seats 6500…the win was the first for the Friars at The Pavilion since 2004, which was also the last time PC swept the season series against the Wildcats. Providence will face nationally-ranked Cincinnati at the Dunk next Wednesday night in a 7:00 pm tip-off (pre-game 6:45 on 103.7 FM)…


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