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Magic in the air?  Friars blast Irish

Saturday, February 16, 2013


For the first time in awhile, the air inside the Dunkin Donuts Center had a little pop - a little sizzle to it Saturday afternoon.

Certainly the presence of 21st ranked Notre Dame had a lot to do with the electricity.  Add to that mix a sell-out crowd on Alumni Weekend at Providence College, the famed mystique of the Fighting Irish and three straight Big East wins for the Friars going in...you could feel something was different in the atmosphere.

There was something different, to be sure.  Notre Dame won't be looking for a repeat appearance against PC either, for awhile at least...as Providence blew past Notre Dame 71-54.

"I just thought today was our day" Friar coach Ed Cooley said. "We would have beaten a lot of teams today.  We played like a championship team today.  It could go away tomorrow but today I thought we played at such a high level.

"I loved our chemistry on the floor," he added. "We looked like we had fun."

As did the 12,428 in attendance, including the Friar players on the floor.  In a tightly contested first half, PC managed to maintain a slight lead throughout, but could never grow a lead beyond eight points.  ND's inside presence, with 6-9 Jack Cooley and 6-10 Tom Knight, kept the Irish in the fight with the Friar defense focused on the Notre Dame shooters.  The Irish came into the game as the Big East's top shooting team from the perimeter...yet it was PC's 6-9 junior Lee Goldsbrough that delivered the big shot.  Goldsbrough knocked down a buzzer-beating three to end the half, giving Providence a 34-26 lead at the break.

Having held the ND shooters to an 0-for-7 start from the three-point arc (and just 1-14 for the game), the offense began to utilize its speed and quickness advantage over the Irish in the second half.  A huge 27-11 run over a nine-minute span turned a tight game into a rout, as the Friars continually ran set plays and scored from several different angles - inside and out - against a baffled Irish team.  

Trailing by 63-39 with 9:50 left, Notre Dame scored seven unanswered points to pull within 65-48 with 6:11 remaining, but the #21 Irish (20-6, 8-5 Big East) could get no closer after three-point misses from Eric Atkins and Arlington, MA native Pat Connaughton. On the other end, Providence sizzled behind the reigning Big East Player of the Week, Kadeem Batts (20 points) and the Big East's leading scorer Bryce Cotton (19 points, 3-6 from three).  

"I think they are the most underrated team in our league, quite frankly," ND head coach Mike Brey said afterward.  "They're really hard to guard.  I think Ed's done a fabulous job with them.  I don't know if it was as much about us not playing great as it was them really playing well.

"When Batts is doing (what he did) inside, he's a pro," Brey added.  "It's almost impossible to stop him."

Or the Friars, perhaps.  Brey had a point.  PC limited the league's best-shooting team to 39% from the floor, and outrebounded a bigger Irish team by a 43-32 margin on the backboards.  

When the dust settled, Providence (14-11, 6-7 Big East) had their win, and an undoubtedly worn down ND team - having played through seven overtime periods in their previous four games - saw their luck run short.  That pop and sizzle present at the start of the day inside the Dunk?

That's what relevance sounds like in the Big East Conference.  

Friar Notes

PC's 4th straight win in conference play is the first time they've managed such a streak since 2004, when they won six straight that season...the win also snapped a six game HOME losing streak to the Irish, who had won nine in a row against Providence overall (home and away) coming into Saturday's game.  The Friars' last win against ND had been a 73-59 decision in South Bend in '04, and their last home win in the series came in 1998...ND came in as the #1 shooting team (overall 48% and from 3-point range 39%) in the Big East, but were held to 39% percent from the floor, and just 1-14 from three (7%) by the PC defense...the Irish average 79 points per game in their league wins this season, but just 54 points per game in their losses.  They scored exactly 54 Saturday afternoon...Vincent Council had a very memorable day.  Not only did the senior guard nearly come up with a triple-double (seven points, a career high 11 rebounds and 11 assists, the 15th double-double of his career), his 3rd assist of the game on a pass to Batts in the first half was a record-breaker.  The dish broke Ernie DiGregorio's school career record for assists, with 663.  Now with 671 career assists, Council also has the Big East Conference career record in his sights, held by Syracuse's Sherman Douglas.  Douglas had 426 in conference games from 1985-89, Council now has 424 with five games left in the regular season.  PC's next game is at Syracuse Wednesday...Notre Dame was led by Cooley's 12 points and 10 rebounds (his 18th double-double, tops in the Big East this season) and got 11 points each from Knight and Garrick Sherman.  The Friars also got 13 points (all in the 2nd half) and eight rebounds from LaDontae Henton...Providence won its second straight over a Top 25 team, having defeated then-#17 Cincinnati 10 days ago.  PC is 2-2 against nationally ranked teams this season, and at least one more left on the schedule for Wednesday...  


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