Friars beat up the Black Bears, 94-70
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Saturday’s game against the Maine Black Bears was a test of a different sort for the Providence Friars.
Maine came into the Dunkin Donuts Center having lost seven straight games, and at 1-8 overall, also possessed one of the statistically worst defenses in the country…allowing almost 90 points per game. Testing the concentration level of the Friar defenders – and trying to slow down a Black Bear team that can score – became paramount.
Test passed, with a 94-70 victory that moves PC to 10-2 overall on the season. But was the result, other than the win, what the team was looking for? “Our challenge today was to challenge their dribble-drive,” Friar head coach Ed Cooley said afterward. “They shot 50%, 56% in the second half…we’ve still got our work cut out for us defensively, but what I am excited about is how well we moved the ball.”
That, the Friars did do well. With a 6-6 score early, Cooley called a time out barely two minutes into the game, hoping to focus his team with better effort on the floor. Whatever was said must have worked, as Providence streaked out on a 15-4 run to take control of matters. When UMaine scored seven unanswered points to close back within four points, 21-17, with 11:40 left in the half…Cooley called another time out.
Shades of Pete Gillen. And it worked again, as PC sprinted out on a 24-7 run from there, and led the game 56-33 at the half. Bryce Cotton connected on his first five three-point tries of the game, finishing five-for-seven in the half with 19 points, and added another trey in the second half for a 22-point performance. “I thought we made shots today,” Cooley added. “We made a lot of good shots. We haven’t gotten to the free throw line the way we want to the last two games…so we need to try to get to the line a little bit more. Overall, good execution.”
The second half was more of the same, with the lead stretching out to as much as 31 points before the Black Bears closed the final margin with a late 11-0 spurt to make the score a bit more respectable. Kadeem Batts, who has struggled with his game on both ends of the floor this month, put together a solid effort Saturday with his 4th double-double of the season (12th career) with 22 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Cotton also added his second double-double of the year (3rd career) as he added 10 assists to his 22 points. Tyler Harris added 18 points (13 in the second half), while LaDontae Henton and Josh Fortune chipped in 10 points apiece. Maine was led by their backcourt of Xavier Pollard with 15 points, five boards and Zarko Valjarevic (16 points).
“I think the players are excited to get away for a few days from our staff,” Cooley said, “because we’re just like a family. You yell at each other, you cry with one another, you cuss at each other but at the end of the day it’s all love…and we need a couple of days to take a deep breath, and appreciate Christmas.”
Maine outshot the Friars from the floor overall, connecting on 51% from the floor to 48% for PC. The Friars did, however, hit a season-high 11 three’s (in 29 attempts)…and crushed the Black Bears on the backboards. Providence held a 46-23 rebounding advantage, with 22 offensive rebounds, outscoring Maine 30-4 in second-chance points…the Friars remain the nation’s #1 free-throw shooting team (81%), and a 9-for-10 performance at the line Saturday won’t hurt their chances of staying there…11 three’s topped the previous season high total of 10 against Kentucky…21 assists on 37 made baskets were both high marks this season, the previous best coming against Brown and Marist (19 assists in each, 32 FG’s vs. Marist)…PC wraps up the regular season non-conference portion of their schedule at the Dunk, with a lone road game remaining next Saturday at UMass. The Friars have now won 33 straight non-league games at home, with the last defeat coming in 2009 (vs. Iona)…Batts scored the 1000th point of his Friar career with 8:31 remaining in the first half, and now has 1015 points overall. He’s the 47th player in PC’s 87-year history to hit the mark. Cotton (last season) and Henton (earlier this year) have also accomplished the feat…Providence now leads the all-time series with the Black Bears 11-1, with all 12 games played at the Dunk in Rhode Island. The only defeat came in the ’00-’01 season, but the Friars rebounded well. They went on to a 20-win season that year and an appearance in the NCAA tournament…PC has Christmas week off, and will play in Amherst, MA against nationally-ranked UMass next Saturday at 6:00 pm (5:45 pre-game on 103.7 and friars.com)…