Friars Battle Top Ranked Cuse Before Falling

It was night and day between the Syracuse Orangemen and the Providence Friars – one a senior led team with a deep bench and a number one ranking, the other a young team who played six players and was coming off two tough road losses. The Friars played with heart and pride but fell short to the Orangemen, 87-73.

In front of a near sellout crowd of 12,252 the Friars and Ed Cooley were looking for their first victory in conference play. Behind the rallying support of fans the Friars won the opening tip and started off the game with point guard Vincent Council knocking down a three. The arena erupted in excitement at the opportunity to strike first, but Syracuse brought it back two minutes later with a fast break layup from Kris Joseph to bring the score to 3-2.

From there on it was like watching a classic boxing match – both teams exchanging blow after blow, neither willing to let up or surrender for even a second, keeping the game within 5 points the entire half. Bryce Cotton would hit a three, only to be matched on the next possession by a Syracuse three. Kadeem Batts would hit a fade away jumper, then C.J. Fair would knock down a jumper, only to have a response by Cotton with a jumper of his own. Three point plays were converted into four point plays by both Cotton and Council. Scoop Jardine would weave through traffic and Fab Melo would slam down dunks.

At the half Syracuse lead by two, 36-34, but the closeness in score didn't come close to the passion being displayed on the floor. Both teams shot 50% from beyond the arc, the rebounding totals were 14 for Syracuse and 15 for Providence, while Syracuse had 8 assists and Providence had 9.

The second half took off and so did Syracuse's Brandon Triche, who made 4 three pointers in a row from all around the arc, and put Syracuse up 14. The Orangemen appeared unstoppable, getting points off turnovers and draining everything whenever the ball went up. The Friars were not going to quit and threw every weapon they had at Syracuse's zone.

Gerard Coleman slashed his way to the hoop and Kadeem Batts did everything he could at the low post. LaDontae Henton again showed no fear when it came to his role and didn't once show intimidation from Syracuse's seasoned squad, making layups and shots when he had to and ripping down boards at every opportunity. If anything, the freshman demonstrated his true talent in having a nose for the ball on rebounds, finishing with 13 rebounds to go with his 11 points, making it yet another double-double for the young player. The Friars came within 6 late in the game but a few missed layups and turnovers kept the Friars from getting over the hump. After fouling and fighting to the very end, the Friars were left with a hard fought 87-73 loss to the no. 1 Syracuse Orangemen.

Their effort didn't go unnoticed. "I think Ed has done an unbelievable job with this team," Jim Boeheim said. "We were really almost lucky to win tonight… they're playing great defense, they're moving the ball well… we've stopped everybody pretty much this year and we couldn't stop them, we just outscored them."

Ed Cooley agreed, saying "it was a good basketball game, I was proud of my team and proud of their effort." But still, a loss is a loss for Ed. "It's our third loss in a row and I'm sick to my stomach over that, but you're playing in this league and you gotta man up. I told my players, nobody's going to feel sorry for you, you have a great team coming in on Saturday – [you gotta] grow up and try to get the next one, move on."

When asked about his opinion of Boehiem's comments, Cooley mentioned that Jim had come to him at the end of the game and given him praise, and that he appreciated the words. "I'm not in it for a congratulations from a loss," he said. "I want to win, it takes time but at the end of the day it's about winning the basketball game."

If there's one thing noticeable to the Friar fans, it's that the team is playing with more heart than they have in years past, and likewise after a tough loss Cooley shows that he truly cares about his kids and that he looks out for them like sons. Gerard Coleman sat down for the press conference looking sad and defeated, like he'd let down thousands of people. Ed Cooley patted his back. "You okay?," he asked. "Yeah," Coleman responded with melancholy in his voice. Cooley sat down next to him and put a hand on his shoulder, "I'm proud of you," he said, sounding like a father talking to a son.

And when Coleman mentioned that he felt the team needed to play with pride, Ed Cooley interjected - "There's a lot of pride we're playing with… I think we are playing prideful." Ed Cooley is demonstrating with each game that he not only will improve these kids with the game of basketball but he'll help guide and prepare them for the game of life.

The Friars return to action, in the hunt for their first Big East win on Saturday at 6 p.m., against Seton Hall at the Dunkin Donuts Center, with the Pirates coming off a big upset over 9th ranked UConn.

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