Everything fell apart for the Providence College Friars as senior point guard, Billy Garrett Jr., led the hungry Blue Demons to a 64-63 victory; marking their first Big East conference triumph of the season. DePaul has handled Providence at Allstate Arena in back-to-back seasons, having upset the nationally ranked #11 Friars on their home court last February when PC was forced to finish the game without an injured Ben Bentil.
This time, the injury riddled Friars competed without Jalen Lindsey, the teams’ third leading scorer and best on-ball defender. Kyron Cartwright was able to make his start despite leaving Saturday’s contest against Creighton with mild tendinitis in his knee. The Friars led by as many as 12 points with 8:26 left in the game but completely lost their offensive rhythm down the stretch, sinking just one field goal in the final 4:49 of the contest.
Slow it Down
Holding onto a sufficient 11-point lead, the Friars implemented a slow-paced half court style offense in an attempt to shorten the game by burning the clock. After all, DePaul had been cold from the floor as their two star players, Billy Garrett Jr. and Eli Cain had combined for just ten points throughout the first 35 minutes of action.
PC’s transition to a game-management mindset backfired. DePaul conjured up a sense of urgency and got hot at the opportune moment. It was only a matter of time before Garrett Jr. and Cain woke up. Garrett Jr. buried a clutch three point shot with 4:29 remaining to cut DePaul’s deficit to 55-47, shifting the game’s momentum to the home team for good. Cain converted on an acrobatic hook shot in the lane over two defenders with 46 seconds remaining, cutting the score to 60-57. From that point forward DePaul’s full-court press frustrated the Friars. Cartwright turned the ball over at half court, resulting in Garrett Jr.’s soul crushing and-one finish at the basket.
Providence turned the ball over a season-high 20 times. DePaul was able to convert the Friar’s miscues into 27 points of their own. It was evident that Kyron Cartwright’s lingering tendinitis in his knee slowed him down a bit, thus making his signature speedy play less dynamic. Although the offense, for the most part, looked crisp with him at the point, he had a difficult time negotiating the smooth defensive play of Garrett Jr. who, at 6’6 is a lot to handle for an undersized guard.
With Cartwright ailing, the development of freshman guard Maliek White is greatly needed. Logging 12 minutes off the bench, White burned his defender with a nifty crossover and take to the basket after being pestered by DePaul’s active guards at half court. He buried a deep three pointer as well capping off his 5 point performance. It is certainly reassuring knowing that PC has an able guard to fill in for Cartwright off the bench. White has plus size for the point guard position and has the physicality to compete in the Big East. His offensive fluidity and decision making will continue to develop with more minutes.
This one hurts… The Friars should have left Rosemont with their first road victory in conference play under their belt. The cavernous Allstate Arena was speckled with just a handful of fans to see the Blue Demons’ triumph. The vibe was such as a scrimmage. It was quiet – void of any energy or excitement whatsoever.
Coach Cooley’s instructional barks from the sideline happened to be the most prominent source of noise throughout the entirety of the game. It’s understandably difficult for student-athletes to get in an aggressive mindset when playing in such a mellow environment; far different from all other Big East destinations. An odd home court advantage for DePaul to say the least.
Friar fans must accept the loss and give credit where credit is due. DePaul has some talent and veteran locker room presence. Conversely, Providence is young and inexperienced. One can’t help but ask; what if Cartwright’s tendinitis wasn’t bothering him? Maybe he would have elevated enough to convert his last-second layup to win the game. If Jalen Lindsey played, would Billy Garrett Jr. have been as effective down the stretch? If Emmitt Holt hadn’t fouled out with under 2 minutes remaining, would his length and athleticism have impacted the outcome down the stretch? Ultimately, there are no excuses, and a loss is a loss, but it certainly lessens the frustration to wonder.
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The Friars (11-7, 1-4 conf.) welcome the Seton Hall Pirates (12-3, 2-1 conf.) to downtown Providence for a Saturday noon matinée tip-off on January 14th.