The Friars' fourth straight league win pushed their record to 14-11 overall and 6-7 in the Big East. It was also Providence's first home win against the Irish since February of 1998. PC accomplished the feat a multitude of ways with contributions from a number of players.
BATTS BEAT: Kadeem Batts continued his impressive play with another dominating performance, scoring 20 points on 10-16 shooting. No one on Notre Dame could contain him, as he insured that Providence got out to a hot start by scoring three of PC's first four baskets in the first three minutes and 14 points in the first half. He hit ten-foot hook shots, pro fall away jumpers, top of key jumpers and inside finishes. His hot start put Notre Dame immediately on it's heels. "For the past month, three weeks, Kadeem has been the best player in the league," said Ed Cooley. Mike Brey commented, "Last season, Jack Cooley won the award for the league's most improved player. This year, Batts has my vote."
MARCH OF DIMES: Vincent Council, with his third assist of the game – a pass to Batts that was converted into a short jumper – passed Ernie DiGregorio's 40-year old record for career assists. Council would finish with 11 assists and a team-high 11 rebounds and missed a triple-double by a basket. "He missed a triple-double by a three-pointer," said Cooley. "I was wondering why he was jacking up all those bad shots at the end." With just two turnovers, Council controlled the game, speeding past Irish defenders and making good decisions on when to pull the ball back out.
INSTANT KARMA: Lee Goldsbrough played 16 minutes, 12 in the first half and has quickly become a fan favorite with his hustle and defense. Contributing in ways that don't always show up on the stat sheet, Goldsbrough threw himself into scrums to come away with 5 rebounds and a block, and most importantly, drilled a top of the key three pointer with no time showing to end the half. That basket extended PC's halftime lead to 34-26 and paved the way for an explosive second half. "I believe in karma," Cooley remarked. "Lee works so hard, he sets the tone for us on defense. I didn't trust him earlier in the year, but I trust him now. Remember, he hit a game winner for us earlier. It wasn't a shot I wanted him to take, but he hit it and it won us the game."
STICKY FINGERS: Suddenly, the Friars are playing sticky man-to-man defense and teams are suffering for it. Since the benching of Council and LaDontae Henton and the dismissal of Sidiki Johnson, PC is playing defense with passion and vigor. Notre Dame struggled to find any rhythym, were picked trying to dribble through double teams, and had issues running their offense. Occasionally they broke free for drives inside or easy layups, but those were minimized and their 1-14 shooting from three emphasized how well PC is jumping out at shooters and guarding the perimeter. "We held another team to below 40%," Cooley said. "When we do that, we can beat anyone. When a team shoots 1-14 on threes, it's tough to win."
ON THE OTHER HAND: Providence was barely slowed by Notre Dame's big lineup. "I tried everything," said Brey. "We played man, we played zone, I even played some triangle and two. They were ready and they jumped us. We did stop them on 7 or 8 straight possessions in the second half (PC went from the 9:16 mark to the 3:52 mark without scoring), but we couldn't score (when Council finally broke the drought with two free throws, the score was still 66-48)." It was clear that Notre Dame was a tired team and PC took advantage. Between travel, the noon start and three overtime games, the Irish looked wobbly, but Brey did not use that for an excuse. "What happened out there was 95% Providence. Sure, I was concerned about fatigue. Jack Cooley wasn't himself, but still had a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) on an off game. You could see, though, that I didn't rant and rave at them. We have another game on Big Monday and we have to somehow get our juices back for that one. This was a case of getting out of Dodge."
HELPING HANDS: PC got balance and major contributions from everyone who played big minutes. Bryce Cotton scored 19 points on 8-14 shooting (3-6 threes), in his best shooting game in awhile. He also scored on an alley-oop dunk, a breakaway dunk and on a tipped alley-oop pass, a midair catch, adjustment and reverse lay-in. Josh Fortune hit two big threes. Kris Dunn played tough perimeter defense and battled for 4 boards. And LaDontae Henton, after a scoreless first half, came alive with 13 points in the second half and several "man" rebounds. When PC receives that balance, they're a tough out. In addition, the Friars outrebounded a big, strong Irish team 43-32 including 16-10 on the offensive glass.
NEXT UP: Providence travels to the Carrier Dome for a tough 7 p.m. matchup with Syracuse on Wednesday. "Syracuse is very tough, one of the best teams in the league," Cooley opined. "We'll focus on their zone in practice. They're long, we're getting there but we're not as long as they are. The key is finding the shots that you want against that zone, not the shots that they want you to take."
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