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Friars beaten by Minutemen at the end, 69-67

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Close only counts in horseshoes…and hand grenades.

That Providence played 22nd ranked UMass close, down-to-the-last-second in fact, serves as little consolation for a program that took a loss off the court earlier in the week. Dropping a 69-67 decision to the Minutemen in overtime at the Mullins Center in Amherst, MA only served to rub a little salt in the wound.

The Friars faced a UMass team known for its athleticism and rebounding prowess, and they weren’t surprised with anything different. Early, PC kept the tempo much more to their liking with a solid defensive effort in the first half, mixing in man-to-man with a 2-3 zone that slowed the Minutemen down, and limited second shot chances. Trailing for much of the opening 10 minutes, UMass took the lead on a Trey Davis three at 18-17…but the Friars grabbed the lead back following jumpers from Bryce Cotton and Josh Fortune to hold a 29-28 lead at the break.

PC held leading scorer Chaz Williams scoreless in the first 20 minutes, but they were beaten on the backboards and the Minutemen kept things close.

The Minutemen (11-1) came out to start the second half aggressively, thrilling the sellout crowd with a strong 9-2 run out of the locker room to grab control and a 37-31 lead in the opening three minutes. The lead grew to as much as 10 after Davis knocked down a jumper to make it 43-33 with 12:50 remaining, bringing the UMass advantage to 15-4 in the first 7:10 of the second period.

But the Friars (10-3) never let UMass slip out of sight. Cotton (24 points) helped keep his team within close range on a driving runner in the lane to bring PC back within four with 7:59 to play…but Williams finally found his range and nailed a huge three to put the Minutemen seemingly on the verge of putting things away with 4:01 left, and a 56-46 lead.

That’s when the Providence defense decided to jump back into the fray. Williams fouled out of the game with 1:36 remaining, and PC held UMass without a point for the last 3:04 of regulation – a 13-3 run fueled by a three from LaDontae Henton and free throws from Cotton during the stretch run to force overtime…with Cotton tying the game on a layup with 10 seconds to play. Two blocked shots by Kadeem Batts and Carson Desrosiers kept UMass from a win at the end of the first buzzer.

By the time the second buzzer sounded, Massachusetts had PC where they wanted them.  In the extra period, and without their leading scorer in Williams, the Minutemen turned to 6-10 forward Cady Lalanne inside, and junior transfer Derrick Gordon outside. Lalanne’s free throws gave UMass the first lead – which they held onto – and Gordon hit two jumpers picking up the slack from Williams’ absence. After Cotton tied the score on a trey with 36 seconds left, the final shot came on an offensive put back with just 1.1 remaining from Gordon.

A tough way to end a tough game, and a tough week, for the Friars. They certainly got close…but close won’t count for much with Big East play looming.

Friar Notes

Cotton led all scorers with 24 points, and played all 45 minutes…Tyler Harris chipped in 16 points and led PC with nine rebounds. UMass beat the Friars on the backboards 45-36, with 15 offensive put-backs leading to 14 second chance points…while PC hit 17-22 from the free throw line, the nation’s number one team from the line missed three crucial foul shots in the extra period that could have made a difference. Providence was just 5-8 from the line in the OT, and only 1-6 from the floor…Lalanne led five Minutemen in double figures, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Sampson Carter also had a strong game with 12 points and 12 boards. Williams, held to just 10 second half points before fouling out, did manage a double-double as well with 10 assists…Providence shot 39% from the floor, as did UMass, but managed only 2-13 from three-point range while UMass hit 6-of-19…the sellout crowd of 9493 was the first such crowd for UMass at the Mullins Center since 2006…PC is now 8-2 all time in Amherst against UMass, and leads the all-time series 22-7 despite dropping the last two games. Last season in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic, the Minutemen beat the Friars on a last-second tip-in at the end of regulation to claim a 77-75 win. Déjà vu, all over again…one of the two Friar freshman suspended earlier in the week by the school for the remainder of the season, Rodney Bullock, was present at the Mullins Center but did not sit on the bench. Brandon Austin was not with the team…Big East play opens Tuesday afternoon (New Years’ Eve) at the Dunk against the Seton Hall Pirates, with tip-off scheduled for 2:30 pm (2:15 air time on 103.7 FM)…


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Wally M

Hey John, your opinion: is Austin coming back?

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