Huskies Slip Past Friars In OT

Providence College returned to the Dunk and 10,180 fans welcomed the team home, witnessing a dramatic and painfully heartbreaking 82-79 overtime loss to their archrivals, the Connecticut Huskies.

Poor shooting, inopportune turnovers, atrocious refereeing and wild lineup changes all plagued the Friars, as the team dug itself a huge 25-10 first half hole and then kept shooting itself in the foot everytime it attempted to get over the proverbial hump. Taken individually, perhaps these obstacles could be overcome. Taken collectively, Providence had no chance, and with that PC falls to 10-11 on the season and at the halfway mark of the Big East campaign, 2-7.

SHOOTING WOES: For the game, Providence shot just 33%, hitting 22-65 shots and the Friars connected on only 3-14 threes. Hard to win when you can't buy a shot. PC missed all manners of shots – from point blank layup attempts to wide open three balls. The numbers are depressing. Bryce Cotton hit just 4-15 and 2-10 from three and as Ed Cooley said, "He had wide open looks except on two or three of his threes. He might still be open on one of them (that he missed)." Add to that Kris Dunn, at 1-7; Ted Bancroft at 1-5; LaDontae Henton at 3-9… these are bad numbers from a home team.

Contrast that to the Connecticut side. UConn shot 50% from the floor and 9-17 from three. Shabazz Napier (3-3), Ryan Boatright (3-6) and Omar Calhoun (2-5) were Friar killers from three. Freshman Calhoun's corner three with :41 left in overtime was the final dagger that finished off PC. But that only punctuated the previous threes by Napier and Boatright that came at just the right moments and were daggers of their own. "I told our guys," said Cooley, "that if you allow a team to shoot 50% against you in the Big East, you will usually lose."

SLIPPERY FINGERS: Turnovers can kill a team, especially when trying to catch up or maintain a slim lead. PC had 17 turnovers for the game, compared with 11 for UConn and several were momentum breakers. Vincent Council fell on a drive to the hoop to end the first half with PC down by one. Dunn dribbled the ball off his foot at halfcourt for a backcourt violation in the second half. To be fair, UConn's strength is in their backcourt, and a quartet of quick, talented guards gave PC problems all night, but some of the errors were unforced.

SWALLOW THE WHISTLE: Some games are more difficult than others to officiate, and this match was physical, but this crew did not distinguish themselves. A total of 55 fouls were called, just as in the Villanova game, and five players fouled out with two more sitting with four fouls. Conspicious in the calls were a missed three by Cotton – the ref ruled that his foot was on the line and awarded just a two pointer and refused to review the play. At the time, PC trailed 31-28, and an extra point might have meant a Friar win in regulation.

Late in the second half, Henton drove and launched a shot that appeared to be a goaltend but resulted in a no-call. Once again, Cooley appealed to no avail. Along the way, a number of soft, ticky-tack fouls, especially to open the second half, put PC in a difficult position. At one point, Kadeem Batts and Enosch Wolf inadvertently crossed paths running up court and were called for a double foul.

To PC's credit, the Friars shot 32-39 from the foul line, much better than their season average. At one point, Providence made 20 consecutive free throws, but late misses in regulation and in overtime doomed PC. UConn shot 19-27 but made all of theirs down the stretch and in overtime. And sometimes, that's the difference.

ANYONE HAVE A PROGRAM?: The insertion of Ted Bancroft and Lee Goldsbrough into the starting lineup and the benching of Council and Henton certainly raised the eyebrows of the UConn coaching staff when they checked the scorebook. Apparently, they don't read the ScoutFriars board. Henton entered the game about five minutes in, but for Council, it would take longer. Almost ten minutes had passed by the time he entered, and PC was down by fifteen. He made an immediate impact, finding teammates for easy baskets on sweet passes and Providence clawed back. Council would finish with 15 points and 10 assists.

Meanwhile, Bancroft played hard. The walk-on contributed 8 boards and stripped Boatright late. "He may not be the most physically gifted, but no one has a bigger heart than Ted," said Cooley. "I like the karma he gives our team when he's on the floor. I like the chemistry that he brings to the team when he's on the floor. I like his length." Bancroft played 24 minutes and he played tough on defense. Where he lacks is on the offensive side of the ball, where his presence in the lineup takes away a scoring threat, but that's not relevant on a night when other Friars are shooting well.

ANYTHING POSITIVE?: Well, PC outrebounded UConn 55-24, a whopping +31 margin. Has any Big East team ever done that before – and lost? Included in that total were 28 offensive rebounds (5 for UConn)… but PC converted just 18 points on those second chances. Poor shooting created rebound opportunities; the Friars grabbed the rebounds – and then continued to miss shots. Time of possession had to heavily favor PC.

Of course, this had to be the weakest frontcourt that UConn has assembled in a long, long time. DeAndre Daniels is a player, but the Huskies are sorely lacking up front and ripe for this type of glass massacre. They rely on stellar guard play and new coach Kevin Ollie has emphasized that and ridden that to a 14-5 record and 4-3 Big East mark. Determining just how good a head coach Ollie is, is more difficult, however, as he is surrounded by a bench full of head coaches in George Blaney, Karl Hobbs and Glenn Miller. Time will tell.

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