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Friars roar, but Nittany Lions win

Saturday, November 17, 2012

 

The help wanted sign is still out for the Providence Friars.

With an already shortened bench sliced to a mere fraction of what Ed Cooley thought he would have this season, things got a little tougher Friday night going into a 2nd round consolation match with Penn State in Bayamon, PR.  Junior guard Bryce Cotton, who turned an ankle against UMass on Thursday night, had the ankle swell to the point he could not play against the Nittany Lions, leaving PC with just five scholarship players and walk on Ted Bancroft available to play.

Six players, total.  Against a Big 10 team, featuring an all-Big 10 guard running their show.  And the Friars almost won it, dropping a 55-52 decision to Penn State in overtime at the Coliseo de Ruben Rodriguez.

“I can’t be more proud of our team" PC coach Cooley said.  "We played the game today with a freshman learning to dribble in college who was forced to play the point. We played with six guys who gave Providence College an identity today.  

"If that’s how we play every game, we’ll be all right when we get a couple healthy bodies," he added. "Everybody did something to help."

Indeed, they did just that.  In a real rock fight of a first half, the Friars sat back in a 2-3 zone to slow the pace of play, and Penn State never pressed the attack...or the Friars either, for that matter.  Limiting their all-Big 10 guard Tim Frazier to just one point (he averaged 23 per game coming in), PC took a 16-14 lead at the half, limiting the Nittany Lions to just 26% shooting, and 1-10 from three-point range.

“Dr. Naismith just called. He said we did a good job taking basketball back," Penn State coach Pat Chambers said.  "I’m not the shooting coach, if that’s your next question."

Actually, it wasn't.  But with PSU content to play man-to-man defense, the Friars finally put together an offensive spurt with a 12-2 run early in the second half, giving PC a 30-20 lead with 12:22 to play.  Penn State answered with an 11-2 run of their own to pull back within one, as Frazier began to find his range, and with PC holding a four point lead with 7:21 to go, the Nittany Lions assumed control.

Or so it seemed.  A 9-2 run gave PSU a 40-37 lead, behind Jermaine Marshall's suddenly-found shooting touch...but the Friars didn't go down quietly.  Kadeem Batts (13-15 from the line) hit eight straight free throws down the stretch, including two to tie the score with just :14 seconds left, and Fortune hit a tough jumper as PC forced overtime after a Nittany Lion miss at the end.

Like they really needed to play an extra five minutes in this one?

Fortune put PC up 45-43 in the extra time, before Penn State (2-1) ended the threat with seven unanswered points - a three from Marshall, an outside bucket from D.J. Newbill and one inside from Ross Travis - and the one-two punch was too much for the Friars (2-2) to overcome.  

Providence . . . boy, did they play hard," Chambers said afterward.  "They only had six guys. They will be a very tough team come January and February."  And even though his team lost, Cooley was equally impressed with his undermanned team effort, if not the final result.  “This team will be something to reckon with in the future. Everybody was out of rhythm. Josh did all he could at the point, playing out of position. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids.

“Penn State’s players made plays at the end," he added. "Credit them. They made plays when they had to. We need to pick up our heads and get ready for UNC-Asheville."

Friar Notes

The 14 first half points scored by Penn State tied a tournament record low for team scoring, matching 14 put up by Chattanooga in the 2009 event against Fairfield - also coached by Ed Cooley...the 30 combined points scored was a tournament record low...turnovers might have made the ultimate difference, as PC committed 21 turnovers leading to 21 PSU points...Penn State also outscored the Friars 24-14 in the paint, despite being held to 37% shooting by the PC defense...Batts led the Friars with 17 points and 11 rebounds, his 3rd career double-double, while Fortune contributed a career best 15 and Henton scored 11...Frazier led all scorers with 19 points (18 in the second half) and led PSU with nine rebounds and seven assists...Ted Bancroft, a junior walk on from Marion, MA, not only made his first collegiate start, he scored career high numbers in points (three), rebounds (six), assists (three) and steals (two).  He also played all 45 minutes in the game...Cotton tried to play with swimming pool therapy earlier in the day Friday, but was scratched from the lineup before PC embarked on an hour-long journey to the arena (normally about a 20 minute trip) - thanks to traffic.  When the team arrived, they were relegated to a trailer located outside of the rear entrance to the building to use as their locker room...reportedly, freshman McDonald's all-American Kris Dunn - with the team on the trip while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery - asked his coach if he could play as long as he was suiting up.  Cooley declined the request...the Friars will play UNC-Asheville (1-2) of the Big South Conference in a final consolation game Sunday with the tip off scheduled for 11:00 am ET (10:45 am pre-game on 103.7 FM)...North Carolina State and Oklahoma State will meet in Sunday's Puerto Rico Tip Off tournament championship...

 

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