Three Trends Sink PC Versus Irish

Providence College closed the regular season on the road with a 75-69 loss to Notre Dame at the Purcell Pavilion. With the loss, PC heads into the Big East Tournament with a 15-16 overall mark and a 4-14 Big East record.

Season long trends. Three season long trends have turned this into a sub-.500 year for Providence, and all three popped up during the Friars' loss at Notre Dame.

Trend number one has been shooting. All season, one thing has remained constant for Providence and head coach Ed Cooley. When the Friars shoot the ball well, they can be a very difficult team to deal with. When they don't shoot the ball well, they can lose to anyone. Against Notre Dame, PC once again struggled shooting the ball.

"I thought we had great shots for 40 minutes," said Cooley. "That's the most open shots we've had in 31 games. We just couldn't buy a shot. We couldn't make a shot. I thought the right guys had the ball and shot it for us. It's hard for us to win when our guys don't make shots for us."

Providence has been a funny team shooting the ball this season. The Friars entered the Notre Dame game leading the Big East in team three point shooting, but at times, PC has been historically bad shooting the ball this season. The three worst single game shooting percentages in PC history belong to this year's squad. Against Notre Dame, PC missed their first 13 three point attempts.

In addition, the Friars have consistently struggled shooting the ball on the road. One of the major reasons for why PC was mired in a 22-game Big East losing streak until recently was because of the team's inability to make shots in unfamiliar arenas. That trend continued in South Bend, where the Friars found inhospitable rims.

Teams, by nature, tend to look great when shots are falling. That was evident as PC, led by Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton, bombed three after three in the comeback win over Connecticut on Tuesday. The same PC team, running the same offense, looked awful at times against Notre Dame simply because the shots weren't falling. Bad shooting will make a team look bad.

The second area where Providence has won or lost games this season has been when the center-by-committee slot has produced or not produced. Again, against Connecticut, Kadeem Batts and Bilal Dixon gave PC meaningful minutes, rebounded well, defended the post with energy and supplied a bit of offense. Once PC went to man and took away UConn's alley-oop passes over the top of the zone to Andre Drummond, PC was actually effective defending the paint.

Against the Irish, no one was effective at center for the Friars. Batts fouled out in 8 minutes and he and Dixon were pushed around by Jack Cooley, a junior who scored a career high 27 points and added 17 rebounds, mostly in the first half. While Providence was missing all sorts of lay-ups, dunk attempts and short and long range shots, defenders were unable to move Cooley away from the basket and he scored on a variety of shots around the rim.

Despite a 12-33 shooting half, PC managed to stay close, trailing just 31-28 at the half. But in the second half, the third familiar bugaboo surfaced for Providence. The dreaded dry spell. Throughout the season, scoring droughts extending as long as 14 minutes have doomed the Friars. Against Notre Dame, the opening eleven minutes of the second half were, once again, a killer. During the second half's first eleven minutes, the Friars managed one field goal, shooting 1-for-15. That allowed the Irish to open up a whopping 25 point lead, at 60-35 with just nine minutes to play.

As cold as PC can get at times, they can get hot in a hurry as well. In just a minute and a half, two Henton threes and a Gerard Coleman three pushed Providence back into the game and allowed the Friars to make it interesting. Still, the gap was too much to overcome. Notre Dame maintained at least a double digit lead until Coleman hit a lay-up with a minute left to make it 69-61. Free throws by Alex Dragicevich and Eric Atkins enabled the Irish to withstand a late dunk by Coleman and a three by Cotton at the buzzer.

PC had closed with a 36-15 rush, but the hole dug by the dry spell was impossible to dig out of. For the Friars, Henton scored 18 points and grabbed 12 boards, while Vincent Council played well with 17 points and 10 assists and Coleman chipped in with 15 points. The Friars hit just 4-20 threes, though, and had trouble getting to the free throw line.

Now, having clinched the 15 seed in the Big East Tournament, PC will wait to see who they match up with on Tuesday night. And they hope that the shots will fall away from home at Madison Square Garden.

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