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Friars hold on at end, beat Bulldogs

Saturday, December 01, 2012


Sometimes, you just have to figure out a way to hold on for dear life at the end.

That's precisely what Providence had to do Saturday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center against Mississippi State's Bulldogs in the SEC/Big East Challenge.  PC held a 26 point second half lead, only to watch it dissappear into a mere five point game with less than a minute to play.  Free throws saved the Friars at the end, as they beat the Bulldogs 73-63.

PC (now 6-2) used a career game effort from junior forward Kadeem Batts (32 points) to help close this one out, as injuries again played a factor for an already-shortened bench.  With the Friars jumping out to a 13-1 lead from the opening tip, their 2-3 zone defense caused MSU trouble with outside shooting in the first half.  Batts hit a three-point play for a 26-10 advantage with 8:38 left in the first half, a lead that held steady at 31-16 with 3:54 remaining when injury reacquainted itself with the Friar bench.  

Junior guard Bryce Cotton, the 8th leading scorer in the country coming into the game at 24.3 points per contest, came down awkwardly on his right leg following a three-point attempt.  At first, it was thought he might have tweaked the ankle he originally turned in Puerto Rico, causing him to miss the overtime loss to Penn State.  After hitting two of the three attempts at the line, he retreated to the locker room - and did not return.  The PC bench later reported Cotton felt a grab in the back of his leg, and his status right now is undetermined.

Cotton's status for the second half was determined, however.  While he never reappeared, it didn't seem as if his teammates would need his scoring, or his steadying influence running the floor game.  Providence expanded an 18 point halftime lead (39-21) into a 26 point margin with 10:22 to play, leading the Bulldogs 61-35.  That's when the gang who couldn't shoot straight - Mississippi State - made its run.

And they almost ran all the way back home with a win.  6-9 forward Wendell Lewis (16 points, 11 rebounds) used his big frame to wear the Friars down inside, and 6-5 freshman Fred Thomas began to connect from outside as MSU pounded away.  Missing their first 17 three-point attempts, Thomas hit two deep threes during a monster 25-5 run...over 9:24 of the second half.  Guard Trivante Bloodman hit a layup with :58 seconds to play for a two-possession game, making it 66-60.

Where the Friars had a chance to prepare for Cotton's absence against Penn State, adjusting on the fly against the Bulldogs was a bit problematic for freshman Josh Fortune, who again was the only guard left to handle the ball.  Mississippi State's ball pressure, and switching to a 1-3-1 zone caused problems, and when the Friars missed, MSU was able to use superior size to grab the rebound.  With just a five point lead (68-63) and :46 seconds remaining after a Thomas three, Batts and LaDontae Henton helped put the game away with clutch free throws.

PC has until Thursday to rest, regroup and perhaps find some additional help before taking on URI in the annual rivalry renewal at the Dunk.  

Friar Notes

Cotton finished the game with nine points, never returning to the bench and remaining in the locker room to receive treatment on his leg throughout the rest of the game.  His status is officially day-to-day...Batts added eight rebounds to his career high 32 points, besting his previous high efforts against Bryant this year and Louisville last year (27 points in each)...Kadeem showed tremendous versatility in the paint, scoring with both right and left hands on jump hooks that clearly had his defenders guessing which way he would go...Henton was the only other Friar in double figures with 18 points and six rebounds...Fortune contributed seven points with seven assists, and Marion, MA walk on Ted Bancroft played 32 minutes, finishing with four points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks...PC shot 46% from the floor, but hit just 2-12 (17%) from three, and scored a season best 21 points (out of 27 tries) from the line...Mississippi State was led by Lewis' 16 points and 11 boards, Thomas scored 12 and leading scorer Roquez Johnson (15 ppg) added 10...for a second straight game, PC's zone was difficult for an opponent to figure out, as MSU managed a mere 2-22 (9%) from the arc for the game.  Combined with the effort in a Tuesday win over Holy Cross, the Friar defense has held the last two teams they've faced to three made three's out of their last 43 attempts (6.9%)...for the game, the Bulldogs hit 35% from the floor, and outrebounded the Friars 38-36...PC's win over the Bulldogs was the first-ever meeting between the schools, and clinched the series for the Big East over the SEC for 2012...PC has now won 23 straight non-conference games at home...the Friars and URI Rams tip off at the Dunk Thursday night at 7:00 pm (pre-game 6:45 on 103.7 FM)...


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