Curry Clutch in Wild Finish

Some games leave you shaking your head in disbelief. The Friars 71-70 win over Cincinnati was certainly one of those games. After playing poor defense for most of the night and falling behind by eight with only 1:41 left in the contest, a combination of Bearcat miscues and Sharaud Curry heroics pulled the Friars out of the ashes and into the win column.

While offensively they started out well, Providence was a step slow on defense all night, and traded basket with Cincinnati for much of the game. Despite shooting over 55% for the game from the field, Providence's poor defense allowed Cincinnati to shoot 50% for the game with 10 more field goal attempts.

While that usually means poor rebounding in addition to porous defense, the Friars actually out rebounded Cincinnati by 10 on the glass. What accounted for the disparity in field goal attempts was the fact that the Bearcats had 13 steals against the Friars and forced 19 turnovers overall with their quickness. All that added up to a halftime tie and some foul trouble for the Friar front court.

In the second half, despite switches from zone to man to man, Providence could not shake the surprisingly confident Bearcats. Providence's biggest lead was by 7 at the 14:16 mark of the second half, but it would quickly evaporate as Geoff McDermott picked up his fourth foul at roughly the same time. The Bearcats quickly seized the opportunity and took control of the game down the stretch, with some key three point shots made by Deonta Vaughn.

At the same time, Providence began to really struggle in their half court sets against the Bearcat zone. The Friars had prepared to face man to man defense given Cincinnati's past play, but their active zone defense and the lack of a foul line playmaker for the Friars made Providence struggle to get good shots. The Friars squandered too many possessions with unproductive perimeter passing and poor spacing. When they got opportunities, they actually took advantage, shooting a hot 61.9% in the 2nd half. Unfortunately, they only took 21 shots over the final 20 minutes of the game, and committed an ugly 11 second half turnovers.

While all of this should have added up to a loss, a late Friar press and some missed free throws from Cincinnati gave Sharaud Curry the opening he needed to save his team from what would have been a crushing home loss. Down 8 with a minute and a half left, Curry calmly knocked down two consecutive three point shots, cutting the Bearcat lead to 2 with 43 seconds left. After the teams traded turnovers, Cedric McGown missed an ill advised lay-up off a timeout with the shot clock off and only 23 seconds left.

Without any timeouts left, the Friars in bounded the ball under the Bearcat basket after a Cincy foul, setting up the game winner. Curry received the ball just inside the 3 point line and penetrated when the defense collapsed on Hill and McDermott. Curry nailed his patented floater with the foul for the tie. One made free throw later and a final Bearcat miss at the buzzer, and the Friars had stolen one in a fashion not seen in a number of years at the Dunk.

Friar Notes:
Lost in Sharaud Curry's clutch performance (24 pts – last 9 pts scored) was another solid effort by Herb Hill against a physical opponent. Hill was 7-8 from the field and totaled a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds despite battling foul trouble for much of the game. The Friars hosted Notre Dame Prep forward Jamine Peterson for last night's game. Peterson is a tough and athletic forward who the Friars are looking to add to their 2007 roster. The Friars now go on the road for two difficult matchups against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Both opponents shoot the ball very well from the outside and the Friars will need to play some man to man defense in order to win either game. If Providence is able to grab one at least one win in the next two, the road trip should be considered highly successful and set them up well for the stretch run in the Big East.

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