Providence College downed the University of Rhode Island for the seventh straight year, 63-60, as the nationally ranked Rams felt the sting of another close loss to their bitter in-state rivals.

The 127th game in the Providence College-University of Rhode Island series turned out just as many of the previous games had – a barnburner that wasn’t decided until the final seconds. But as those final seconds ticked off the clock, the Friars emerged victorious, 63-60, for their 7th consecutive win in the series.


What made this win sweeter than most was that URI entered the game ranked 21st in the AP poll and 25th in the Coach’s poll, and even though the game would be played at the Dunk, it was the Rams who were the more experienced, deeper team and the team most expected to make noise this season. Ram fans had to figure, if we can’t beat Providence this year, when will we?


Make no mistake, URI has a talented, deep roster and every player that Danny Hurley rolls into the game plays sticky, in your face man-to-man defense, contesting every shot and every pass. They press full court and have a rim protector in Hassan Martin. What they lack, at times, is consistent shooting and that ultimately did them in on Saturday in front of a deafening sold-out Dunk.


“The difference in this game,” said Hurley, “was that Providence had three players who played really well and we had two.” Indeed, URI played an excellent first half, as Providence struggled to find uncontested shots and the Rams built a 23-16 lead with the ball and looked ready to break the game open.  But Kyron Cartwright took matters into his own hands.


Cartwright beat the URI pressure defense by stepping out and drilling three three-pointers, each one deeper than the last and scored 10 straight points to pull Providence into a 27-all tie. The Rams had the last run of the half, however, as Jared Terrell capped a 6-0 closing run with a corner three, for a 35-29 halftime lead. Cartwright saved the Friars with 15 first half points, as Rodney Bullock, coming off a 36-point performance against New Hampshire, was 0-3 from the floor and the extra defensive attention that he was drawing, especially by Nicola Akele, was clearly bothering him.


At halftime, Ed Cooley had a brief talk with Bullock. “I told him to not let his offense dictate his energy and his emotion. He had some tension on him and I thought he was a little tight. I thought he was pressing too hard. I just said, ‘Man, it’s a game, have some fun. Go do something, get an offensive rebound, make a free throw, get a deflection. Do something that loosens you up.” Cooley also thought that his team was playing a little soft, getting pushed around a bit by the physical Rams.


For the first 8 minutes of the second half, despite a more active Bullock, URI maintained it’s poise and it’s lead. At the 12:15 mark, the Rams lead 47-40 and threatened to add to their lead when Cyril Langevine poked the ball away from fellow freshman Kalif Young. But Young hustled after the breakaway and blocked Langevine’s layup attempt and something in the game shifted.


Jalen Lindsey drilled a three and after two misses by Terrell, Lindsey hit two freebies. Emmitt Holt blocked a Jarvis Garrett layup and a Ryan Fazekas free throw knotted the score at 47. A Garrett jumper gave Rhody the lead but Cartwright streaked in for a reverse layup and after another Holt block on Kuran Iverson, Holt’s jumper put the Friars up, 51-49.


Now the pressure was on URI, as Providence’s defense clamped down. It was the Rams who were rushing shots, when they could find them. Garrett knotted the game and Bullock hit a layup to restore the lead. Providence had three opportunities to extend the lead. After a Fazekas steal, Bullock missed a three; after a miss by Iverson, Holt rushed a jumper and after a missed three by E.C. Matthews, Lindsey missed a three. Finally, URI tied the game for the final time as Matthews hit a teardrop layup with 3:44 left.


Bullock responded by sweeping across the lane and knocking down a clutch lefty hook for a 55-53 lead and followed with a free throw after a Martin miss. Martin cut the lead to one with a putback on a Terrell miss, but Fazekas added a free throw and then Holt rebounded after a Matthews three missed. The Friars worked the clock and Lindsey found himself dribbling across the lane to the right, saw the shot clock running down, saw space and rose up and buried a ten foot fallaway jumper for a 59-55 lead with :43 remaining.


On a questionable call that might have saved the Rams, Terrell drove the lane and Lindsey stepped in to draw the charge, but a block was called as the ball nestled in the basket and Terrell’s free throw trimmed to the lead to one. Coming out of a timeout, Cartwright found a streaking Bullock ahead of the field and fired a pass that Rodney converted to a dunk and a 61-58 advantage with sixteen ticks left.


Two free throws by Terrell cut PC’s lead to one with nine seconds left, but Cartwright answered by draining two free throws of his own. Now, it was URI’s ball with eight seconds left and the Rams settled for a contested three by Matthews that found only air and landed out of bounds. Two missed free throws by Drew Edwards with under a second remaining only served to run out the clock and send the crowd of 12,488 into delirium.


For Providence, Cartwright led the way with his best game as a Friar: 19 points on 6-12 shooting, including 4-6 threes, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and only one turnover in the face of intense game-long pressure. Bullock scored 14 second half points to end with 17 and 5 boards and Lindsey played a fantastic all-around game; stout on defense, 13 points, including two big threes. Fazekas also contributed, especially in the last five minutes, as he grabbed rebounds and was very active on defense.


In a box score doesn’t tell you everything example, Emmitt Holt scored 6 points, had 5 rebounds and was out-produced by Hassan Martin, who had 14 points and 17 rebounds. But Holt did an outstanding second half defensive job on Martin, forcing him to pass the ball back out when he’d catch it down low and denying him the ball. Most of Martin’s second half production came on put-backs.


Martin and Terrell (14 points) were the only Rams to be productive, as Garrett was out played by Cartwright and Matthews clearly is not back to his pre-injury self, scoring 9 points on 3-13 shooting, 1-8 from three. URI did outrebound PC 38-33, including 13-7 on the offensive glass, but PC outshot the Rams, 46% to 37%.


With the win, the Friars move to 6-2 on the season, while URI drops to 5-3 and almost assuredly will drop out of the Top 25. The Friars now lead the overall series, 73-54, have not lost to URI downtown since 2002 and the 7 straight wins ties the early 1960s Friars for their longest win streak in the series.


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Now, PC must avoid the big game letdown as they prepare to play the pesky Brown Bears at the Dunk on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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