Game Recap: Providence 81, Creighton 68

Ted Bancroft (22) and Bryce Cotton (11) celebrate after a steal and a bucket as Providence defeated Creighton 81-68. - Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Providence won its third straight Saturday as they never trailed at home against Creighton

The Dunk, where ranked teams go to die. That statement was ushered throughout much of the college basketball world on Saturday night as the Friars won their third straight conference game and also its third straight at home against a ranked opponent dating back to last season. Creighton never led in this one and seemed to be a step behind the Friars all night long. Providence controlled the clock for the entire game and it was rare for them to start their offense or take a shot with anything more than 15 seconds on the shot clock. With the lack of depth they have, Ed Cooley has no choice but to try and run his flex offense and limit the other teams possessions as best he can. Early foul trouble to Kadeem Batts and Tyler Harris had one assuming that Creighton, most notably Doug McDermott, would be able to separate themselves from Providence. The bench play of Ted Bancroft and Carson Desrosiers allowed Ed Cooley to play eight deep, something he hasn't done much at all this year, and continue to run the offense as he had hoped. McDermott also picked up two early fouls and was said to be under the weather.

Coming out of the half, Providence went on an 18-5 run that saw their lead balloon to 20 with 13:51 remaining. LaDontae Henton was someone Creighton had no answer for. His strength down low bothered their smaller forwards and his quickness off the dribble allowed him to get to the rim against their bigger ones. Cooley calls Henton his "junkyard dog" and his 12 points in the second half made it possible for the Friars to hold a comfortable lead with Batts and Harris on the bench for large parts of the game. The two starters combined for just 40 minutes, or what Bryce Cotton is averaging this year, while Desrosiers saw 23 minutes of action and accounted for three blocks and numerous alterations at the rim.

Creighton players and coaches insisted they did not overlook the Friars with their marquee match-up against Villanova on Monday and gave all the credit to Cooley and his guys. With the win, Providence moves to (13-5, 3-2) and sits alone in 4th place in the conference. Creighton drops to (15-3, 5-1) and sit in 2nd in the Big East going into their game against the Wildcats for bragging rights atop the conference.

Player Grades:

Player Grade Comments
Bryce Cotton A+ Cotton is going to be remembered as one of the greats to ever put on that Friar uniform when he graduates in May, according to Ed Cooley it will also be the only time he comes out for a rest. 23 points to go along with 6 assists and two timely threes with the shot clock running down when it looked like Creighton would make a run is just another reason why he won Player of the Week honors in the conference. His ability to limit turnovers and have the offense depend solely on him while playing out of position has been truly remarkable.
Josh Fortune B+ He is the Friars best defender at the guard spot, and is usually tasked with guarding the primary ball handler/guard scorer on the other team. Cooley has to switch up defenses a lot to make sure Fortune does not get tired on that end of the floor because they need his scoring. He has been looking for his shot more on offense the last three games and it has shown in the W/L column. His ability to stretch the defense opens up lanes not only for Cotton but for others on the team as well. He must continue to play confident and not just watch Cotton, as hard as that may be.
LaDontae Henton A He came to Providence with the nickname "Buckets" and over time has adopted the "Junkyard Dog". Call him whatever you want, but Henton remains one of the constants for a program that has lacked just that over the last few years. He, like Fortune and Cotton, only gets a breather during team and media timeouts and continues to play bigger than his 6'6 frame suggests. He was too much for Creighton to handle and is one of two players, the other being Tyler Harris, that Providence has that can score off the dribble above the rim or step back and knock down a three when you need it most. He doesn't really have a position but just continues to come up with timely rebounds and points when they need it most.
Tyler Harris B- Aside from his signature throw down that put an exclamation on this game, Harris was quiet throughout as he was plagued with foul trouble for most of the game. He did finish with 10 points, but took only five shots. He must get better at defending with his feet and body instead of his hands or else he will be in foul trouble every game, something Providence does not need. He did pull down a few "man" rebounds as Cooley likes to call them, and must continue to crash the boards even if it isn't something he enjoys or is used to doing.
Kadeem Batts B+ Over the last three games, Batts has shown the ability to hit that elbow jumper he added to his game last season, something that was missing earlier in the season. He has admitted to becoming more comfortable with Cotton as his point guard after three seasons with former Friar Vincent Council, and is showing a tenacity and grit that Providence needs from its leader. His near double-double, 13 points and 9 rebounds, came in just 23 minutes and like Harris, will need to learn when to not take silly fouls. He has the ability to become one of the better big men during conference play and must continue to play inspired and tough basketball without committing fouls that could put his team in trouble.
Carson Desrosiers B+ Friar fans finally saw the, "after a block stare down", from Desrosiers in this game as he controlled life around the rim on the defensive end of the floor for Providence when he was in the game. He also showed he can score from inside the paint on the low block and is someone that runs the floor well for his size. His ability to alter shots makes up for the lack of size the Friars have at times and is the only main bench player Ed Cooley has gone to for long stretches in games.
Ted Bancroft A In 19 minutes of action, the second most popular walk on in this game showed what he could do defensively for a team looking for anyone else to contribute. He had the tall order of matching up with McDermott when the two were both in and all things considered did a solid job on him. Although he picked up three fouls, all were smart fouls when he was caught off balance or out of position. He also made a few shots difficult for McDermott and came up with a steal off of him in the backcourt that led to an and one opportunity for the Friars and send the Dunk into hysteria.
Ed Cooley A- Providence shot a shade under 51% from the floor and was able to play their style of play against one of the better offensive teams in the country who trots out one of the best players. That is no easy task when you have a normal rotation of six players, seven on this night, and you are trying to manage minutes and foul trouble as best as you can. Cooley did a great job of finding good looks for his guys and putting them in the right spot. On defense, he switched it up between zone and man and even put on a box-and-one with McDermott a few trips down the floor. There was a key point in the second half when Creighton was showing some life and the Friars were called for 9 fouls to Creighton's 0 and Cooley made sure to let the refs know his thoughts without going over the edge, like he has done in the past. His players are starting to resemble his toughness and tenacity and it is showing in the wins column.
The Fans B+ It was military appreciation night at the Dunkin Donuts Center and for those Friar fans serving our country, it was a good two hours for them. Friar fans are now standing at the start of games before the Friars score their first bucket and even though the students had not yet returned from winter break, both areas behind the baskets were into it the entire game. When the Dunk gets loud and the fans get going, it is a tough place to play, Creighton experienced that first hand on this night.
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