Friars halt skid, beat Georgetown 70-52
Thursday, January 09, 2014
With a short bench and extended minutes for their starters, it’s been a given – Bryce Cotton needs some help on the floor for Providence to win.
Cotton got that help Wednesday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center from an expected source, and an unexpected one as the Friars blew past Georgetown 70-52 to snap a three-game losing streak.
Even though he’s struggled at both ends of the floor of late, the Friars welcomed back 6-9 forward Kadeem Batts’ offensive presence against a Hoyas’ team that was missing their big man, 6-10 Josh Smith inside. Smith was left behind in Washington, DC due to academic issues, and Batts took advantage of his opportunities to lead PC with a 21-point performance. “When Kadeem plays that way, I think we are a tough out,” head coach Ed Cooley said. “Kadeem set the tone early.”
But Batts wasn’t the only Friar to come up big.
Sophomore guard Josh Fortune, who managed only one missed shot in seven minutes on the floor against 11th ranked Villanova Sunday, played much more aggressively on both ends for the Friars and responded with 13 points and a career high nine rebounds. That his performance also came while having to guard Georgetown’s leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera provided the unexpected edge PC needed to get back on a winning track.
In a tightly-played but sloppy first half, a Cotton three gave PC a 14-4 lead with 11:25 to play. But even though the Hoyas struggled with their offensive game, defensively they never allowed Providence to pull away. A 2nd straight Smith-Rivera trey with 4:02 left keyed a 17-7 Georgetown run and tied the score at 21. Batts then responded with five straight free-throws to put the Friars back up, even though they could not score a field goal for more than a four-and-a-half minute stretch before Fortune hit a layup at the buzzer to take a 28-23 lead at the half.
After a Mikael Hopkins lay in pulled the Hoyas within 37-34 with 15:18 to play, Providence probably figured they were in for a good, old fashioned Big East rock fight thereafter. Except that Fortune thought differently. Back-to-back three-pointers keyed a 14-0 run over the next five minutes that put PC in command, as GU could not get any closer than 11 the rest of the way. Fortune took a team-high 13 shots and made five, but his three 3’s in the second half provided a spark sorely missing from the Friar offense.
Batts led PC (11-5, 1-2 Big East) with his 21 points, Cotton scored 20, Fortune 13 and LaDontae Henton scored 10 points with seven rebounds. Smith-Rivera led Georgetown (10-4, 2-1 Big East) with 19 points, while pre-season first team all-Big East guard Markel Starks was held to eight points on 4-of-15 shooting – eight under his average. Hopkins had 12 for the Hoyas, who came in as the #1 shooting team in the Big East at 49.5% from the floor…and they were held to 39.6% by the Providence defense.
Additionally, the Hoyas field goal defense was tops in the league coming in (38.5%), but PC managed one of their better overall offensive performances in a couple of weeks by connecting on 45% of their shots and hitting seven three’s. A turnaround from the previous three games that was certainly welcomed by the fans in the stands, but also a sight for sore eyes on the Friar bench.
“I’m really proud of our players,” Cooley said after the game, “as we’ve had a tough couple of weeks, starting with two overtime losses and then not playing well at Villanova…which is an understatement. To come back and play this way, this is a character win for our guys.”
Bryce Cotton had been waiting for a little help, and he finally got it at both ends Wednesday night.
The win for Providence over Georgetown snapped an 8-game losing streak to the Hoyas, dating back to March 5, 2005 (68-65 PC). It was also the first win for PC over the Hoyas at the Dunk in nearly 10 years, since winning 65-50 on January 26, 2004…fortunately, the Friars didn’t need the free-throw line to be a difference-maker, hitting just 19-27 from the stripe (70%), well below their nation-leading 80.5% mark going into the game…Georgetown’s Smith, a transfer from UCLA, averaged 11.5 points per game but it was clear the Hoyas’ missed his presence, especially the guards. With so much emphasis placed on slowing down the big man inside, the GU guards didn’t have the freedom to find open looks much of the night against the PC defenders…Georgetown’s 52 points was a season low scoring total for them…they scored 19 field goals and were forced into 15 turnovers…rebounds were even 32-32…Providence had eight blocked shots, with Carson Desrosiers picking up four in the second half…the Hoyas, who returned four starters from a 25-win team a year ago that won a share of the Big East regular season title, next play at Butler Saturday while the Friars have a week off before playing at St. John’s on January 16th…
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