PC finds paradise in the win column
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Friar fans can breathe a little easier. The cavalry is on its way.
After missing Friday night's overtime loss to Penn State, the first member of the PC walking-wounded returned to the court Sunday...as Bryce Cotton started against UNC-Asheville in the consolation game for 7th place at the Puerto Rico Tip Off.
Good thing his ankle healed quickly. Cotton came to play, and needed every one of his 30 points to help Providence beat the Bulldogs 72-67 at the Coliseo de Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, PR.
“We had to do whatever we had to, to get a win," Friar head coach Ed Cooley said. "We had some challenges. My freshman (Josh Fortune) played for Asheville for 37 minutes. But he will learn and Bryce Cotton gave us an identity, a personality today. He was spectacular, just super. I’m just glad to leave the island with a win."
Cotton's return from his injury suffered Thursday against UMass was a welcome sight to a team that struggled mightily in a game effort against the Nittany Lions Friday. PC played with just five scholarship players available, but with his addition it was clear from the outset that UNC-Asheville had little answer for his offensive prowess. Leading 12-11 with 11:20 to play in the first half, Cotton keyed a 14-3 run as the Friars surged into a 26-14 lead. Asheville pulled back within five, going with a smaller, quicker line-up, and settled for a 32-25 game at the break.
Providence jumped out to an 8-2 start to the 2nd half, taking their largest lead of the game at 40-27 with 18:15 to play. That's when UNCA coach Eddie Biedenbach went back to his smaller line-up, featuring 6-4 Jeremy Atkinson and 6-6 freshman Will Weeks in the paint - and it worked pretty well. The Bulldogs ripped off 12 unanswered points, featuring Atkinson inside and 6-2 junior Trent Meyer outside, to make it a one-point game.
With the Friars holding onto a 49-44 lead, again the Bulldogs found their range during a 9-3 run to take their first lead of the game at 53-52 with 6:58 to play. It was about that time that Cotton put his team back on his shoulders with a big three, and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch. Nursing a 64-63 lead, Lee Goldsbrough - who hadn't scored during the game - hit a big jumper to start a 7-1 late game run to put Asheville away...and give Providence (now 3-2 on the year) a win in Puerto Rico after two tough nail-biter losses.
“I was really antsy this morning and I credit our players for fighting through my anxiety," Cooley said. "This was our fifth game in eight days and our guys have logged a lot of minutes. They’re tired. We were able to execute in the last four minutes. I didn’t think Asheville executed in the last four minutes. That was the difference.
“It was time (in the last five minutes) to suck it up" he added. "They were definitely tired but it wasn’t time to be a baby, to feel sorry for yourself. I really went after them (during a time out with five minutes to go) and I got after them timeout because they have to learn to win. And, defensively, we have to become a better team. We got beat on the boards. We gotta clean that up – I’m not going to coach a weak team.”
Especially with the reinforcements on their way
Cotton's 30 points was the 2nd highest total of his career. He score 34 against Bryant a year ago...Kadeem Batts contributed a 2nd straight double-double effort, scoring 15 points and pulling down 11 rebounds...LaDontae Henton, still struggling with his offensive game largely due to the changing of the Friar lineup (due to injuries) also scored a double-double, with 15 points and 10 boards...Fortune, after running the point guard spot in Cotton's absence Friday admirably well, struggled badly with some of his decision-making on the floor, as is sometimes the case with freshman players learning the college game. He finished with eight points but also had 8 turnovers...PC shot 55% from the floor and 37% from three, but got hammered on the offensive glass by the smaller Bulldogs (19-8)...Asheville (1-4) was led by Meyer's 20 points and Atkinsson's 16 point, 13 rebound double-double...Atkinson is the only UNCA starter who returned this season from a 2nd straight Big South Conference title team that won 24 games a year ago, and almost upset Syracuse in the NCAA's...the Bulldogs forced 20 PC turnovers and took 22 more shots than did PC for the game, but connected on just 36% of their field goal attempts...Providence is off until next Friday, returning to the Dunkin Donuts Center to face Fairfield at 7:00 pm...