Providence Slams The Rams, 80-61

In the 124th meeting of the Providence College and University of Rhode Island basketball rivalry matchup, the Friars entered as having never won a game at the Ryan Center. Ed Cooley and the team provided the fans with an early Christmas present, reversing the Ryan Center curse and beating the Rams on their own court, 80-61.

In front of an away crowd of 7,657 people, the heated rivalry was felt throughout the building. "This is it!" the announcer shouted just moments before game time. "The PC-URI rivalry! Nothing before this matters, and nothing after this matters! It's all about tonight!" his words sparking a flame within the fans of the 1-10 Rams. If nothing else, the fans knew that their season could be somewhat salvaged if they could hold the intrastate rivalry victory over their heads of the hated Friars.

The teams played the same way too. Though there wasn't a field goal scored until three minutes into the game both teams played with passion, understanding the seriousness of the rivalry. Fans cheered with each missed PC shot and chanted on every Ram possession – old and young fans alike getting out of their seats and straining their voices to deafening levels.

Providence started off slow, down 4-0 with 16:14 to go in the first half before finally getting a basket by Gerard Coleman. Fast breaks and open looks hurt the Friars early on, putting them down 14-7 with 12:24 to go in the first, and with the team looking disjointed, it felt as though the hex was blocking every Friar shot and intercepting every Friar pass.

However, a 6-0 run fueled by Coleman and a pair of free throws from Bilal Dixon allowed the Friars to get back within striking distance and the Rams started to get nervous, clinging to a basket lead for dear life. The Friars captured a quick lead thanks to head coach Jim Baron getting into a verbal riff with the refs, resulting in a technical foul, where Bryce Cotton hit two free throw to put PC ahead. And though the lead was quickly changed again with a follow-up pair of free throws from Billy Baron on a foul by Vincent Council, the momentum in the arena had shifted. With their coach letting his passion get the better of him, the Rams started to make mistakes that allowed the Friars to stay within striking distance, and eventually taking a two point lead into halftime.

That would be the last time the Rams would have a chance to be in the lead, as the Friars led the entire second half. The Rams came within one point twice early in the second half, but their composure was shaken and good defense from the Friars allowed them to take an 8-0 run that included game-changing back to back threes from Cotton, giving PC a 46-40 lead.

After the first one drained in, Cooley turned to the PC fans behind his bench and waved his arms up and down, causing the atmosphere in the Ryan Center to change from a Ram fueled one to a Friar dominated feel. Now only the Ram fans yelled in anger over a missed call or a questionable foul, but it did little good. The Friars caught fire and pulled away hitting their first double digit lead with 12:06 to go and never looked back.

Fans held their breath, hoping that the jinx wouldn't somehow take hold, allowing the Rams to come back and win, but URI wasn't so lucky. Instead, the opposite happened and Ed Cooley's Friars dominated the Rams down the stretch, making another statement that this isn't the same team as last year.

Despite sitting at 11-2 to close out the nonconference – the same record as last year entering the Big East – a couple of things feel different. First, the team looks and plays much more unified basketball. There is no more relying on a single player or two to win games, nor are there games being won 110 to 97 – the team values each other and each possession, understanding discipline on the offensive and defensive sides of basketball.

Secondly, these wins do not feel cheapened by playing one half of basketball (the offensive half) – these wins feel well rounded and complete based on how the Friars have played their opponents and how they approach their execution of their in-game strategizing. Lastly, this team feels like more of a representation of what Friar fans have expected from them, and not just a handful of players that chose PC to play in the Big East. These players want to represent this school and play for us, and it shows in their attitude, swagger and effort.

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