The Bulldogs (2-5) trailed 59-33 with 10:54 left in the contest. MSU battled back strong, closing within five points at 68-63 with 46 seconds left in regulation time. Roquez Johnson missed two free throws for MSU as the Maroon and White almost made it a one-possession game.
Providence (6-2) hit five free throws in the final 34 seconds to seal the victory.
"The kids fought hard and competed there at the end," MSU head coach Rick Ray said. "However, I told them in the locker room, if they thought I was going to be happy, they would be sorely disappointed. I don't want great effort 10 minutes. I want us to start a game that way, too."
Remaining winless away from the Humphrey Coliseum, the Bulldogs are finding enormous problems starting games. Providence leaped to an 11-1 lead Saturday, as MSU went better than the first five minutes without a made field goal.
"We are starting games too casually," Ray said. "We make turnovers when the other team is not aggressively attacking the passing lane. Providence plays a zone and we take too many 3-point shots. We are not a good 3-point shooting team. So you need to attack more and move the ball inside more.
"That is what happens with a young team. You fall into the trap of doing what they want you to do."
The Bulldogs were content to live on the outside in the game's opening half. In a dreadful shooting half, MSU managed only five field goals in the first 20 minutes, including a 0-of-13 half from 3-point range.
Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton got the offense going for the Friars. After the fast start, Providence held a good lead for the rest of the half. After the Bulldogs closed within seven, Providence followed with a 10-1 run for a 26-10 lead with 8:38 left in the half.
Providence forced nine first-half turnovers and led 39-21 at the intermission.
In the second half, the Bulldogs got the ball inside more and Wendell Lewis responded. Posting the team's first double-double of the season, Lewis had 16 points and 11 rebounds, including seven on the defensive end.
"We were more aggressive and we attacked the zone," Ray said. "We attempted 22 3-point shots as a team. That is just way too many. We have to get more players involved and do more positive things on offense."
The Bulldogs fell down 20 with 18:03 left and stayed in that range until the big comeback began seven minutes later.
Providence went better than five minutes without a point as MSU pieced together a 13-0 run. A basket by Trivante Bloodman brought the Maroon and White within 66-60 with 58 seconds left. A 3-pointer by Fred Thomas brought MSU within five but the guests could get no closer.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23 of 64 shots from the field (35.9 percent), 2 of 22 shots from 3-point range (9.1 percent) and 15 of 22 shots from the foul line (68.2 percent). The Friars hit 25 of 54 shots from the field (46.3 percent), 2 of 12 shots from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 21 of 28 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent).
MSU held a 38-36 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 10 assists and 15 turnovers, including an 8-to-6 assist-to-turnover ratio in the game's final half. The Friars had 18 assists and 12 turnovers.
Lewis was joined in double figures by Thomas with 12 points and Johnson with 10 points.
Batts had 32 points for Providence, while Henton added 18 points.
MSU hosts Texas-San Antonio at 7 p.m. Tuesday.