Nothing has come easily for the Friars this season against DePaul. The Blue Demons constantly find ways to strike the nerves of the Friar faithful, leaving the die-hards and casual fans alike biting their nails and teetering on the edge of their seats, with angst and frustration.

We can’t soon forget DePaul’s upset over the nationally ranked #11 Friars in Rosemont, IL BACK in February 2016; a loss that had sparked a three-game losing streak and jeopardized Providence’s clout as a top tier team in the Big East Conference.  If that loss wasn’t demoralizing enough, DePaul managed to replicate their torment of the Friars by taking care of business on their home court, yet again, as they overwhelmed PC with a late-game comeback, back on January 10th.  Billy Garrett Jr.’s late game heroics toppled what had been a wire-to-wire lead for the Friars.  Kyron Cartwright’s last second finger-roll layup (for the win) was denied by the rim.  A sight that Friar fans will bury deep into their subconscious as time progresses.

Last night’s contest was sloppy; void of rhythm and flow, filled with fouls and turnovers.  Ed Cooley’s squad displayed moments of uncertainty and miscommunication.  There was even a wide-open missed dunk, a two-handed slam, may I add.  The Friars won, nonetheless, a 73-64 victory.  This was a must-win game for PC, necessary to remain on the “right side” of the tournament bubble, as their last regular season game awaits.  As the saying goes - take the win and run.

Finding Ways to Score – First Half

To give you a better understanding of how the game unfolded, Rodney Bullock was 0-1 from the floor in the first half with 0 points, yet six Friars had notched an assist in the opening 20 minutes.  Back in January, during the beginning of conference play, this would have been a major concern for the Friars, who so greatly relied on Bullock’s production and ability to take over games.  Offensively, the first half belonged to Jalen Lindsey and Isaiah Jackson.  Lindsey got off to a hot start, nailing his signature – high arcing three pointer, just 18 seconds into the contest.  He would hit anther at the 7:22 mark, which gave Providence a 24-14 advantage.  This was one of the few moments in the first half that left Friar fans with hope of pulling away from DePaul for good. 

Jackson knocked down a wide open three as well at the 11:44 mark, but was extremely active across the board with an additional two steals and two rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench.  Providence is now loaded with players who can score (i.e. Lindsey, Jackson, Holt and Diallo).  This alleviates the opponents focus on Bullock and Cartwright, allowing them to take advantage of mismatches and open looks, while in half-court sets.

Kalif Young logged nine quality minutes off the bench in the first half in an effort to counter Levi Cook, DePaul’s freshman center.  At 6’10 and 293 lb., Cook is the prototypical true center that gives the undersized Friars a fit in the paint.  Young played extremely well on both sides of the floor, limiting Cook to just 4 points and 2 rebounds in the first half.  Most of Young’s production came in the first half as well, notching 4 points, 3 rebounds, an assist and a block while going 2-2 in one trip to the free throw line.

Turnovers and Fouls

This was undoubtedly a game of whistles.  Both teams combined for an astounding 46 fouls and were in the double-bonus midway through the second half.  To DePaul’s dismay, they managed to shoot just 12-22 (54.5%) from the foul line.  Losing by a total of nine points, it wouldn’t be surprising if Coach Dave Leitao chalks up this loss to poor shooting from the charity stripe.  In hindsight, one can speculate that DePaul had an opportunity to lock up a clean sweep of the Friars.  The back-and-forth nature of the game could have greatly benefitted the Blue Demons if only they hit their free throws.  On the other hand, Providence shot 24-28 (85.7%) from the line, well above their season average of 70.3%.

A Farewell to Billy Garrett Jr. and Casey Woodring 

Over the past four seasons, fans of the Big East have become well acquainted with Billy Garrett Jr. and must admire what he has offered a rebuilding DePaul program.  Garrett Jr., an ESPN Top 100 recruit out of high school, will finish his career as one of the all-time greatest players in Blue Demon’s history.  He is currently 10th on their all-time scoring list with 1,599 points and has the record for most free throws made in program history.  His methodical style of play solidified him as one of the most consistent and dominant point guards in the conference.  Unfortunately, Friar fans will remember him for his dominating performances mentioned above.

Casey Woodring, a fan favorite walk-on from Darien, CT has notched just 11 career points as a Friar, but may find himself alone in PC record books.  If the Friars were to advance to the NCAA Tournament next month, Woodring would become the only player in the history of Providence College men’s basketball to be part of 4 NCAA Tournament appearances, something that the team has never accomplished. 

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The 19-11 (9-8) Friars head to Madison Square Garden to take on the St. John’s Red Storm to conclude their regular season on Saturday, March 4th at 12:00 PM.

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