Friars struggle, but still beat Bulldogs 76-74
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
The first game back after a semester exam break usually has more downs than ups for most teams.
The problem for Providence Tuesday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center, however, was that Yale had more than its fair share of ups...almost to the point of an upset over the home team. There was no easing back into the schedule after 12 days off, and the Bulldogs made the Friars sweat it out to the very end before PC pulled out a 76-74 win.
Providence (9-2) had struggled on the offensive end just prior to the exam break in a loss to Kentucky, and a road win at URI...so with the practice time to work on refining their game, the Friars came out with guns blazing against the Bulldogs. PC connected on it's first five three-pointers, with Tyler Harris and Bryce Cotton heating things up, and very quickly Yale found themselves down 22-10 after Josh Fortune joined the parade with a trey of his own and 11:53 left in the first half.
The lead grew to 15 points, 32-17, with 5:11 to play and the Friars seemingly on cruise control. It was almost too easy. And the defense played that way.
The Bulldogs, led by 15 first half points from super soph Justin Sears (career high 31 for the game), outscored Providence 18-3 over the last five minutes (scoring 14 unanswered at one point) to tie the score at 35-35 by the break. Yale scored on 11 layups in the half...and dominated the backboards 20-11, even though PC shot 54% from the floor themselves.
Defensively artistic, it was not. From there, it was a struggle for the Friars, and much of that was directly a result of Yale's inside strength. Sears scored inside with 17:57 to play to give the Bulldogs their first lead, and Javier Duren connected on a three a minute later to make it 44-41 as Yale hit five of their first seven shots of the half. PC began to tighten up a bit on the defensive end, but perhaps more importantly, didn't allow Yale to dominate the backboards as they did in the first half. Back-to-back baskets from Cotton put Providence up six, 57-51 with 9:55 remaining and seemed to set the Friars on the path to a win.
But Yale (5-5) never went away. Even though Harris scored on a dunk and free throw to put the Friars up 71-64 with 3:16 to play, the Bulldogs got to the foul line themselves, and a trey from Armani Cotton plus an inside move from Duren brought them back within one, 73-72, with less than a minute to play thanks in part to a couple of crucial turnovers. A driving layup from LaDontae Henton with 22 seconds made it a three point game...and the free throw line - a real bright spot for PC so far this season - proved to be the difference maker in this one. The Friars converted 12-of-13 from the line for the night, and needed every one of them down the stretch.
Yale had a shot to tie it on their final possession, but a defensive stop from Harris and Kadeem Batts finished things for the night...giving the 3281 fans in attendance on a snowy night a definite "up" to the evening.
When it could have been a real downer.
PC came into the game with Yale as the #1 free throw shooting team in the nation, averaging 81% from the line for the year over their first 10 games...the difference definitely came from the line, as Yale hit 8-of-14 from the stripe while the Friars hit 12-of-13, and lost by two...Yale finished the game over the final 25 minutes hitting 23 of the 30 shots they took from the floor, and ended up out-shooting the Friars 53% to 50% for the night (15-22, 68% in the second half)...while the Bulldogs dominated the boards in the first half, Providence turned the tables in the second, outrebounding Yale 18-7 and allowing no offensive boards...Sears' night (31 points) was a career best, as he hit 13 of his 16 shots taken, while the rest of the team connected on 17 of 40...Cotton led PC with 21 points, Harris finished with 19, Henton 13 points and six rebounds and Batts scored 10 points with four boards...Batts is now seven points away from becoming the 47th Friar to reach the 1000-point mark in a career...no new word on whether suspended freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock will be reinstated, but a decision on their fate is expected soon - perhaps in advance of Saturday's next game against Maine...while the game marked the 18th meeting all-time between the two New England schools, Providence has not dominated the series, leading with 11 wins to seven for the Bulldogs. Yale's last win in the series, however, came in 1949 in New Haven, CT, as PC has won five straight - all played in Providence - since that time...the Friars now have 32 straight regular-season non-conference home wins in a row, with one more (Maine) to play Saturday at 2:00 pm...PC is now 5-0 against New England schools this season, with two left to play on the schedule (also at UMass 12/28) after going 4-5 last season against New England rivals...