The Irish came out ready to play and jumped off to a five point lead at the 15:28 mark. Over the next six minutes, the Irish did not score while the visitors tallied seven points to take a 2-point lead, 11-13, and increased their lead to six with seven minutes to go. From this point on, the teams traded baskets and the Irish were able to cut the deficit to one, 23-24, at halftime.
The Irish played good defense in the opening period and had a 21-15 edge in rebounding. However, they struggled offensively, shooting only 27.6 percent and just 20 percent from three-point range. The Irish did not finish on several close-in and rebound shots that could have given them the edge at halftime.
The Providence zone kept the Irish shooters off balance throughout the game but especially in the second half as they took control of the game. "We couldn't get into any kind of rhythm," said Brey of the Providence zone. "Their zone is really good. It's long and it's active. You have to make a few more shots outside of that thing to loosen it up like we did against Syracuse, but we just couldn't do that tonight."
The second half saw the Irish tie the score 24-24 within the first minute. Unfortunately, the Irish would not lead at all in the half. The Friars' defense continued to play aggressively, and their offense began to pull away with consistent four and five point margins, and increasing the difference by twelve with just over ten minutes remaining. Their biggest lead of the night was sixteen with just a little over five minutes to go.
The Irish did mount a run and cut the lead to eight with less than a minute and a half to go but could not get any closer as Providence hit three foul shots and finished off the scoring with a three-pointer with .14 seconds left in the game.
The shooting woes for the Irish continued in the second half and they ended at 31. 5 percent on 17-54 shooting. The three-point weapon that has been so important in many games this season was weak tonight as they hit on 7-29 for 24.1 percent. The Irish had three players in double figures - Chris Thomas with 23, Chris Quinn with 13, and Jordan Cornette with 12.
Providence was led in scoring by Ryan Gomes with 25--23 of those came in the second half. According to Coach Brey, Gomes is a "great player. He has my vote for Player of the Year in the league. He was a tough match-up for us tonight, but he has been a tough match-up for everybody."
Chris Quinn, one of the Irish sharp-shooters kept off balance by the Providence defense, said, "We have played against a two-three zone, but I think their zone is a little bit different as it was so far extended. It really got out to our shooters--it was a good defense."
The season is fast coming to a close and Chris Thomas shared, "We are not really thinking of tournaments. We have three regular season games left and we are going to just take them one at a time."
Senior Tom Timmermans was impressed with the Friars. "Providence is a championship-type of team, and they are playing for that and it definitely showed tonight. They played very well in their zone and are very aggressive and really pushed our offense out. We played about five or six feet outside the three-point line and didn't attack the holes, and that gave us a lot of problems. I think we as a team have gone through a whole lot this year, and we have many disappointing losses, but today they were just a lot better. We just have to get back to work tomorrow and work on the stuff that we didn't do well today and see what happens."
The Irish (13-11, 7-7) step out of conference play for their next game as they travel west to take on the UCLA Bruins, Saturday, February 28. The seniors will be recognized at the final home game Tuesday, March 4, with Georgetown as the opponent.