PC Slays The Scarlett Knights

With the Friars facing the back 9 of their Big East schedule they found themselves with a 1-8 record and last place standing in the conference. The Friars needed a win desperately after a disappointing two game road trip. The team came ready to play against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, however, and logged their second Big East win of the season, 78-67.

The Friars surged out of the game with a 9-3 run that gave a glimpse into the offensive firepower Providence has when the team is clicking. Bryce Cotton opened the game by draining a 3-ball 12 seconds in. LaDontae Henton, Bilal Dixon, and Vincent Council each contributed a basket to the run, and it looked as though Providence had passed the defensive hump and offensive slump of their previous outings.

Rutgers surged back into the game, tying it up 11-11, after a 3 pointer from Mike Poole with 13:52 left in the first half, and commanded a 4 point lead with 12:01 left on the clock in the first. Their lead was short lived, as the Friars bounced back with a couple of buckets from Henton to tie the game up 19-19 with 9:31 left in the first.

At 21-21 with 8:02 to go, the Friars charged and took a 12-0 run to bring them up 33-21, both with an excellent offensive effort that made Rutgers look tired and confused, and a relentless defensive effort that showed energy and excitement. The Friars lead by 16 within the final seconds of the half, but an at the buzzer layup by Jerome Seagears marked the halftime score 40-26.

The Friars would lead for the entire game, by as much as 16, both at the end of the first and the start of the second half, where a quick jumper from Bilal Dixon would put them up 42-26 at the start of the second. Rutgers chipped away but the Friars seemed to have everything under control, looking to cruise to a second Big East win. Rutgers couldn't get the lead cut down to single digits until the 8:34 mark, with the Friars leading by 9 at 56-47.

A combination of bad turnovers and equally troubling fouls gave Rutgers a chance to sneak back into the game with foul shooting and points off turnovers, bringing it as close as a 4 point game with 6:49 to go. The euphoria had been sucked out of the building for fans who thought the game would auto-pilot to the win.

The Friars on the floor were losing composure, making careless mistakes and soft fouls that changed the momentum and killed their confidence. Shots that did fall their way didn't seem as confident, but rather more of a sort of panic. With 3:10 to go in the game, Bilal Dixon made two crucial free throws to put the Friars lead to six, 64-58, but there was a lack of confidence.

Enter Bryce Cotton, who took charge and hit back to back 3's to put the Friars up with a double digit lead with 1:54 to go. Ed Cooley, in his post game press conference, said that he was glad that Bryce didn't listen to him during that second three because Ed wanted him to move the ball but Bryce, confident in his shot, made arguably the most important basket of the game, with Cooley giving credit to assistant Bob Simon on the call for that play. The game played out in the traditional foul-rinse-repeat routine, but the Friars didn't falter and came away with an 11 point victory over Rutgers.

Two Friars logged in double doubles. Bilal Dixon had the performance of his season with 10 rebounds and 18 points, leading the team in scoring. Vincent Council had a double double at the end of the first, logging in 14 assists for the game and 11 points in the game. A third Friar, LaDontae Henton, had 15 points and 9 rebounds, but Cooley argued that he should've been awarded a tenth at the end where Henton grabbed a board but the ball was smacked out of his hands upon hitting the ground. Cooley said he plans to fight for that, and maintains that rebound counts.

Bryce Cotton was the second leading scorer of the game with 17 points, but other than his threes to open and close the game he accumulated his points quietly, while Gerard Coleman added another 15 points off the bench. The team shot well from the floor, shooting 52% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, but a tough first half of foul shooting dropped their free throw percentage down to 68% for the game.

The Friars will now begin planning for their next game on Sunday at noon against West Virginia University, in what will be a controversial game, not only because of the conference change WVU is taking, but also because of their current lawsuit with the Big East.

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