Bearcats Roll Past Friars In Overtime

The Friars dug themselves a deep hole and fought back valiantly against Cincinnati, but were blown away in overtime, losing to the Bearcats, 93-81. With the loss, PC falls to 14-13 overall and 3-11 in the Big East, as the squad's postseason prospects took another big hit.

With four of the teams last six games at home, Keno Davis had high hopes for a strong finish and a push towards an NIT berth. Losses at home to DePaul and Cincinnati, however, have dampened those hopes. With a 14-13 mark, the Friars' remaining games include Notre Dame at home, a team that has traditionally given PC fits; Marquette on the road in a venue where PC has always struggled; Louisville on the road, a team playing its best ball and one that will be looking for revenge; and back home to an improving Rutgers team. Not a promising path.

Looking ahead, Friar fans see even more frightening prospects. A team without Marshon Brooks would seem to be a team that will struggle to score and might take a step back, record-wise, even from this year. But Davis is having none of that.

"We'll be better next year. We will be picked to finish higher next year than this year," said Davis. "Look, we lost 45% of our scoring and 50% of our rebounding from last year, and we are, hands-down, a better team this year. This year, we'll lose 30% of our scoring and we'll be a better team next year. You have to understand, all of the players on the team this year will be playing basketball next year. Marshon will be in the NBA. Ray Hall, if he continues to get healthy, will have options overseas.

"Everybody else here has at least two years left and they understand that every time you step on the court is an audition, to get more playing time and to be a part of next year's team. There are going to be guys who want to play more minutes and they'll go to other schools. But we have some guys who are going to surprise our fans in the next couple of years. I look at it pretty analytically at what we need to add with our team and the development we'll make. We develop players. Our fans are going to be surprised."

While the words may surprise many fans, Davis truly seems to believe them. "This year our goal was to grow as a team and get better," Davis continued. "Next year, we'll come in with a goal of making the NCAA tournament. Our sights will be set higher. We do have to become a better shooting team. We just don't make enough shots. During the offseason, our focus individually will be to hit the gym and become better players by taking thousands and thousands of shots."

A few more made shots might have helped against Cincinnati. Especially at the free throw line, where PC has struggled as of late. Providence shot just 9-20 for the game, and 3-9 in the second half as the team mounted a furious comeback. Shoot a reasonable percentage and this game goes into the win column.

The first half was an enigma for PC. Cincinnati was bigger, stronger and manhandled the Friars inside, jumping out to an early lead and building a 10-point advantage. But Providence fought back behind Brooks' 11 points and strong play by Kadeem Batts (17 points, 11 rebounds), and trailed, 40-34 at the half. In truth, the feel of the game was that the Cats were comfortably ahead, but in reality, PC was within range.

In the second half, Cincinnati, keyed by Rashad Bishop, Yancy Gates and Dion Dixon, gradually pulled ahead. Indeed, Cincinnati led by 16, 65-49, with just 7:17 to play and PC looked dead in the water. At that point, Davis applied a swarming, full-court press that created havoc with the Bearcats' offense and PC started hitting shots.

The Friars answered with an 18-5 run that included a huge Brooks' three and a steal and lay-up on the inbounds pass by Duke Mondy, and the score was 67-64, Bearcats. Sean Kilpatrick drove for a lay-up, but Vincent Council hit a big corner three. A free throw and a three by Mondy deadlocked the score at 71-all with 1:29 left. Gates hit one of two free throws, and Brooks drove the right baseline for a short pop that put PC up, 73-72, with 30 seconds to play. A Bishop roll into the lane resulted in a foul by Ron Giplaye and when Bishop converted only one of two free throws with 15 seconds left, the score was tied and PC had the ball.

Davis called a timeout with nine seconds left and chose to put the ball in Brooks' hands. Mick Cronin countered by going zone out of the timeout and not trapping Brooks, and when the play developed slowly, Brooks' 25-footer was off target, and the game headed to overtime. "He still got a pretty good look," said Davis. "I would've preferred to get something going towards the basket but if the shot goes in, an open look from your best player looks like a good option."

In overtime, the Bearcats ran away from PC, hitting all seven shots that they attempted. Meanwhile, the Friars missed their first four shots and committed two turnovers and midway through the extra period, Cincinnati led by 10. For the overtime, the Cats outscored PC 20-8, and their 20 points was just three short of the Big East record for most points scored in an overtime period.

So now, four games remain in the regular season. Four games to right the ship, or see the season end after the Big East tournament.

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