Friars Season Ended By The Baylor Bears

After a hard fought battle on Monday against Robert Morris in the second round of the NIT the Friars immediately turned around to get ready for their third game. In 48 hours the Friars had to get from Providence, RI, to Waco, TX, to take on Baylor University in the quarterfinals of the NIT.

While the Friars played hard and fought for 40 minutes, the fatigue was too much to overcome, and the Friars fell to the Bears, 79-68.

Exhausted: When Ed Cooley did his radio show on Thursday after the loss, his wish was simple: "I want to go home and hug my wife and then hug my pillow."

And who could blame him or the rest of the team looking for rest? The Friars found that their biggest opponent wasn't just the Big XII foe, but also the physical demands. On Monday night the Friars won a hard-fought battle against NIT eight seed Robert Morris. The Friars were advancing in the NIT but, because they were the lower seed, had to travel to the no. 2 seed, Baylor Bears.

What's more, the game was scheduled to be on a Wednesday - the last possible day for quarterfinal games to be played. This meant the Friars went directly from Providence on Monday night to a hotel in Boston, then flew out of Logan on Tuesday morning to Texas, only to have to play a day later.

The travel would prove to be too much for the PC squad. Despite a strong start with the Friars up early, Baylor quickly found its groove and eclipsed Providence. The Friars would fight back and forth (tying the Bears at the half on a last second three point shot from Bryce Cotton), but fatigue found them and helped put an end to the their season.

One key example of this was in the scoring ability, or lack thereof, in the second half. The Friars had fought and clawed to stay in the game, and with 8:41 remaining the Friars took the lead at 59-58, thanks to a free throw from Vincent Council. Unfortunately, the Friars would only convert on one of their next 10 shot attempts - a drought the lasted from 6:47 to the last 55 seconds of the game. By that point the score was 72-64 and, although the Friars would foul and fight to overcome the eight point deficit, it was too much to handle and the Bears advanced to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals while the Friars returned home.

Scoring: It wasn't just the almost-six scoreless minutes for the Friars that put them under, but the lack of distributed scoring options. Of the 68 total points the Friars scored for the game, only four Friars made any real contribution. Bryce Cotton led the scoring with 23 points on 10-20 shooting, then Council with 21 points on 8-12 shooting (a season high for the senior point guard), then Kadeem Batts with 20, and finally Kris Dunn contributed four points.

Providence got eight players into the box score, but of the eight, LaDontae Henton shot 0-5, Josh Fortune went 0-2, and both Lee Goldsbrough and Ted Bancroft went 0-1. Providence logged in no bench points compared to Baylor's 14. However, Providence actually shot a respectable 46.8% from the field for the game, including 53.3% in the first half.

One key highlight in scoring came at the end of the first half. Down three with possession, Providence set up Bryce Cotton to shoot a three with five seconds left. Cotton missed the shot only to steal the ball from Deuce Bello and, with a second left, hit a three point jumper that would tie at 38. This was the second game in a row Cotton hit a three point shot at the halftime buzzer to keep the Friars tied with their opponent.

Senior Moment: Cooley noted that Council had his most complete game of the season against Baylor, and that he truly looked like a senior out there. While Cooley noted that Council was a little lower than normal in the assist column, he mentioned that Council not only compensated for the scoring trouble the team was having but that he also was mentally pushing his team. While the team looked exhausted, Council was the one who was able to dig in and push his team forward.

While it's unfortunate that Council's last game couldn't have been a win under the lights of MSG in the NIT finals, it is rewarding to see a player come from a broken system under a former coach to become a well rounded floor leader and point guard. Furthermore, the scoring effort Council had against Baylor pushed him into the top 15 all time scoring leaders at Providence College, coming in at number 15 with 1,499 points.

LaDontae MIA: Surprisingly, LaDontae Henton didn't contribute a single point to the Friars' scoring efforts against Baylor. LaDontae struggled underneath, repeatedly getting blocked, and couldn't seem to find his shot outside the paint. While he did contribute eight rebounds, Cooley noted that a combination of exhaustion and early foul trouble kept Henton from truly getting into the game. While understandable, if there was ever a game additional scoring was needed from Henton, it was this game. But foul trouble will keep anyone out of the game, and with four fouls by the final buzzer, Henton had only logged in 18 minutes of play, much lower than his normal minutes. It was Henton's first-ever scoreless game as a Friar.

Won't Play Us: After the game Ed Cooley and Baylor head coach Scott Drew had a chance to talk, during which Cooley suggested a home and home series with the Bears. According to Cooley, Drew smiled and said there was no way they wanted to play Providence in the Dunk.

Offseason Education: With the loss to Baylor, Providence now enters it's offseason - though they enter it on a much higher note than they would have following the beating from Cincinnati in the first round of the Big East tournament. Cooley noted that the offseason will begin with a focus on weight training, but also making sure that his team relaxes and gets some rest.

Despite not having any games left, Cooley mentioned that he was going to watch the game film from the Baylor game at least once or twice more to see what they could have done differently. He noted that this team has been one of his biggest learning experiences as a coach, and that he was pleased with how this team grew throughout the season. He also mentioned that he wants to be prepared for Baylor should they play each other in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament next season.

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