Providence needed this game badly. The Friars were 4-6 in their previous 10 games and had dropped three in a row. With road games coming up at Xavier and Seton Hall, Ed Cooley called the game “maybe the most important game of the year for us.”
A win is a win but this one did not come easily. Right out of the gates, PC came out with a sense of purpose and urgency against the Hoyas. Kris Dunn hit a quick jumper 15 seconds in and the Friars were off and running. Georgetown is one of the better matchups for PC in the Big East. The Hoyas play soft defense at times, can go through scoring droughts with poor shooting and don’t have the quickness or athleticism that PC does. All of those things were fully on display for most of the first half, as Providence raced out to a quick 11-5 lead and pushed that to 26-9 on an explosive fast break dunk by Rodney Bullock.
PC got contributions from the entire lineup as they continued to build on their lead and Bullock was the spark with 18 first half points. Three three-pointers, a layup and a free throw by the forward in the span of three-plus minutes extended the lead to 40-16 with 2:55 to play and the Hoyas were reeling. Off target on most of their field goal attempts, Georgetown fell into a 49-23 hole after a Ryan Fazekas three with just under a minute to play, but the visitors closed the half with a 6-0 run to make it 49-29, which included a layup, free throw and three pointer by freshman Marcus Derrickson. That proved to be a harbinger of the second half.
Over the last 21:25 of the game, Georgetown outscored Providence by a 51-29 margin. Incredibly, the Friars managed just 5 field goals in the second half, compared to 16 for Georgetown. Only three players – Dunn, Bullock and Ben Bentil – scored for PC in the half. The contributions up and down the lineup came to an end, as the Friars were the team on it’s heels throughout the half and PC resembled a team playing not to lose, while the Hoyas heated up.
It took PC four minutes to get on the scoreboard on a Bentil layup and PC turned the ball over on 6 of its first 9 possessions. Meanwhile, Georgetown methodically began to cut into the 20-point halftime lead with crisp ball movement and better shooting. Dunn completely blanketed D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, but other Hoyas stepped up, notably Derrickson, L.J. Peak, Trey Mourning and Isaac Copeland. A three-pointer by Peak cut it to 54-45 with 11:18 left and the building could sense that PC was losing its grip on the game.
Another three by Peak at the 10-minute mark made it 58-51, but Bullock answered with a huge three and Dunn followed with a driving layup to give PC some space. After two Dunn free throws, the lead was 65-53 with 6:51 to play and Georgetown started its final push. Within a quick minute and a half, PC’s lead was halved, at 65-59, after a Jesse Govan layup, a Copeland three and a Peak layup.
Dunn buried two free throws and Peak missed a three and another Dunn freebie made it 68-59, but Govan answered with a short jumper and after the ball slipped out of Bentil’s hand on a drive, Bullock fouled Derrickson on a three point attempt with 3:14 on the clock. The forward calmly swished three free throws and PC’s lead was 68-64.
Bentil rebounded a Dunn miss and sank two free throws but on the next possession, Smith-Rivera came off a screen and knocked down a three-pointer for his only basket of the game. Now it was 70-67 and there was still 2:42 to play. Bentil responded with one free throw, and Smith-Rivera raced to the basket for a layup attempt but was blocked by Dunn and Fazekas gathered the rebound. PC ran clock but Bentil missed a three-point attempt and Mourning buried a three with 1:08 on the clock and now PC’s once formidable lead was just 71-70.
Two clutch Bullock free throws after a big offensive rebound in a crowd gave PC a three-point lead but Junior Lomomba fouled Copeland with 10 ticks left on the clock as Copeland attempted a three. With a chance to tie the game, Copeland missed his first free throw, but made his last two, and PC wasn’t out of the woods. Bentil was quickly fouled and made both for a 75-72 lead with 8 seconds left. Georgetown advanced the ball and passed around the perimeter and under heavy pressure by Bullock, Smith-Rivera was short on a three-point attempt and Bentil corralled the rebound for the skin of the teeth win.
What saved Providence was the charity stripe. Georgetown was in deep foul trouble throughout and repeated trips to the free throw line down the stretch helped PC pile up just enough points as the shooting from the field went ice cold. PC outshot the Hoyas from the stripe, 27-36 to 14-16. The Friars attempted only 16 second half field goals as they turned the ball over, failed to get shots on a number of possessions and were fouled. A 36-28 rebounding advantage also helped PC limit second chances.
Bullock scored 23 points and grabbed 10 boards, Bentil had 16 points and 9 boards and Dunn played masterfully, scoring 20 points with 6 rebounds and 5 assists and only 2 turnovers. The only blemish on Dunn’s performance was his 10-16 on free throws, but as PC struggled to hold on down the stretch, he controlled the offense and smothered Smith-Rivera on defense. Georgetown was far more balanced, placing five scorers in double figures, but as PC has done several times this year, the Hoyas made a valiant comeback but had dug too deep a hole. In this case, Friar fans can be thankful that the game didn’t go on for another five minutes.
0 false 18 pt 18 pt 0 0 false false false PC returns to action on Wednesday night with a 7 p.m. game at Xavier.