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Huskies win a heart-stopper, and heartbreaker

Friday, February 01, 2013


You could say that if it weren't for bad luck, the Friars would have no luck at all.

You could say that...but you wouldn't be entirely correct.  Sure, some shots haven't fallen in crucial times this season, while it does seem like the other guys make every big shot they take.  The UConn Huskies had one of those shots fall Thursday night from freshman guard Omar Calhoun, who hit a huge corner three-pointer with :41 seconds left in overtime to lead UConn to an 82-79 win over PC at the Dunkin Donuts Center.  

Good teams usually find a way to manufacture "luck," but that hasn't materialized yet for this Providence team.  Either the offense comes out flat, or the defense doesn't exist...or no one grabs a rebound.  The malady Thursday night came on the offensive end, with PC head coach Ed Cooley starting an unusual line-up to emphasize defensive play - Kris Dunn, Ted Bancroft, Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts and Lee Goldsbrough.  Vincent Council and LaDontae Henton sat and watched at the start, as did 6-10 Sidiki Johnson, coming off of a career high 14-point game at Marquette.

Johnson never got into the game.  Council contributed his 14th career double-double with 15 points and 10 assists, Henton his eighth double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds.  The message was sent, loud and clear.  But will it be remembered?

"We've lost a couple of games and as a coach you have to change the pace of what you do to get people's attention, all through our program," Cooley told the media. "Guys will be held accountable. If I don't feel you're doing what you need to do to help our program grow, take a seat and watch a little bit."

Cooley watched his unusual starting five miss their first nine shots from the floor as UConn raced out to a 25-10 lead with 11:01 to play in the first half.  From there, Council was inserted into the lineup, and his presence steadied the offense...even if the offense continued to shoot and miss.  The Friars did, however, get to the free throw line - a lot - and hit the backboards with abandon.  A huge 30-10 rebounding advantage (18 on the offensive glass), coupled with hitting 12-of-14 from the line helped push PC to a 22-8 run over the final 10:46...and pull within one at the half, trailing 33-32.

Baskets by Kadeem Batts (20 points, nine rebounds) and Council in the opening minute of the second half gave the Friars their first lead, but the Huskies ran right back with a 19-7 margin over the next nine minutes.  Ryan Boatright connected on two three's, scoring eight of his team's first 10 points of the period in the process.  PC's defense, while showing some flashes of the play that led them to wins over Villanova and Seton Hall, looked solid at times defending the Husky guards, and limiting shots for Boatright and Shabazz Napier.

And other times, well,  the defense didn't look good at all.  Hence, the change in the starting lineup.

But the rebounding edge, coupled with dead-eye free throw shooting kept the Friars close.  After Calhoun connected on a jumper with 2:10 to play, giving UConn a 66-63 lead, Bryce Cotton finally got untracked with a deep three to tie the score with 1:39 left in regulation.  Following free throws by Boatright (19 points) and Napier (18 points), Henton scored on a driving baseline layup to tie the score at 69-69 with :18 seconds to play.  Going for the winner, Boatright had his shot blocked by Dunn with :02 ticks left, sending the sides to the extra 5:00 minute period.

Hitting 27-of-31 from the line during regulation, that same stripe wasn't quite as friendly in the overtime to PC.  They managed to connect on 5-of-8, but the misses were all big.  Connecticut shoots 85% from the line in the final five minutes of games, and showed just that...hitting 7-of-8 and getting three's from Napier and the dagger from Calhoun toward the end.  Council fouled out of the game just five seconds into the extra time, which also hurt PC's offense.  

Boatright led four Huskies in double figures, while Batts' 20 led the Friars.  The win - which could be the final appearance for UConn at the Dunk, pending further realignment issues - moves Connecticut to 14-5 on the season, 4-3 in the Big East.  

For the Friars (10-11, 2-7 Big East)...they'll be hopeful for a little good fortune to come their way soon, after another heartbreaker on the home floor.

Friar Notes

PC's only other overtime game this season came at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November, dropping a 55-52 game to Penn State.  The Friars have now lost their last five OT games, the last win coming at Seton Hall on January 22, 2009, 98-93.  Digging a bit further, the Friars haven't won an OT game at the Dunk since December 12, 2004, when they beat URI 65-58...Cotton, the Big East's leading scorer at 21.7 points per game, and leading three-point shooter (hitting 3.4 per game) scored 18 for Providence, but hit just 4-of-15 from the floor, and only 2-of-10 from three-point range...the trio of Napier (18 points), Boatright and DeAndre Daniels (18 points) combines for more than 45 points per game for UConn, and they scored 55 Thursday night...the Huskies shot 50% from the floor, and hit 9-of-17 three's (53%), but were pounded on the backboards 55-24.  The Friars missed the single-game Big East record for team rebounds by nine (64 for St. John's against Seton Hall in 1997)...PC shot just 34% for the game, and hit only 3-of-14 from the arc.  32-for-39 from the line kept them in it...but the misses also cost them in the OT...Cotton hit what was thought to be a three-pointer late in the first half (1:36 left) that was called a two by the officials.  Friar assistant Andre LeFleur reported after the game that the officiating crew (Doug Shows, Mike Nance, Wally Rutecki) allowed that they had missed the call, and PC had evidence showing Cotton's shot was beyond the three-point line, but none of the three officials decided at the time to review the play on a video monitor - which they are allowed to do...the Friars will play their return match with Villanova Sunday afternoon at The Pavilion in suburban Philadelphia, tip-off will be 12 Noon (pre-game 11:45 am on 103.7 FM)...


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