The Friars had a tale of two halves in their cross-town battle against Brown University. For the first half the Friars attacked early. From an early 20-to-4 lead it looked as if Providence College was going to pull away relatively easy. The Friars started to get creative, even opening up seven foot center Carson Desrosiers for a three point field goal. With just over 11 minutes remaining in the first half the Friars were up 22-to-8 and starting to relax.
And then Brown started to strike back.
It was slow during the first half for Brown. They would inch within nine before falling back, but their presence was starting to be known. Sean McGonagill was making shots. The ball was getting stolen from Providence. The Bears started connecting on free throws. A three point field goal from Norman Hobble with under a minute in the first half put the Bears within 14 of Providence, but the Friars didn’t seem worried.
Brown came out of the locker room focused. Despite Kadeem Batts scoring to start the second half Brown’s Rafael Maia found a way to answer with a shot of his own. Tyler Harris made a jumper and Maia responded with a layup. Despite every answer Brown gave Providence, the Friars kept finding ways to score.
Then, with 16:29 remaining in the second half, Kadeem Batts connected on an outside jumper to put Providence up 52-38. The lead was secure for that moment. But it would be the last field goal Providence would make for over six minutes. During that time Brown went on a 15-to-6 run. Bryce Cotton’s shot was nowhere to be found. Passes were being deflected and turned over. Josh Fortune and Tyler Harris were throwing up air balls. Brown’s offense outsmarted and outplayed Providence’s defense at every turn. It was a nightmare come to life for Providence, and they couldn’t do anything to stop it except hold on.
The next field goal came at 10:23 from Kadeem Batts to keep the Friars lead at two possessions, 58-to-53, but Brown wasn’t finished. Another scoring drought -- this one lasting four and a half minutes -- allowed Brown’s offense to attack. During the Friar scoring troubles Brown only connected on two layups, including a critical one from Maia with 6:12 remaining in the game to put Brown up 60-58, but it felt like more.
Batts responded to Maia's layup with a jumper of his own to tie the game at 60-all, but a three-point shot from Sean McGonagill put the Bears up by three. Batts answered with a layup and then a foul shot to tie the game with just over four minutes to play, but another three from McGonagill kept the Friars clawing. LaDontae Henton gave hope with a three point field goal to put the Friars even at 66 with the Bears. Both teams struggled to find a shot, but with 36 seconds left in regulation Josh Fortune hit his only bucket of the game to put Providence ahead by three.
Two free throws from Batts with 20 seconds left kept the Friars up five, and the small exhale they had cost them a three-point shot from McGonagill. Now the Friars were only up two with nine seconds left on the clock. The ball was inbounded towards Josh Fortune and Bryce Cotton only to be stolen by McGonagill, who set himself up with plenty of time for a game-tying or game-winning shot. McGonagill threw up a three contested by both Henton and Batts, and just missed. Providence recovered and was fouled with half a second left in regulation, but the game was over.
Two scoring droughts for Providence almost cost them the ball game, but if it wasn’t for Henton’s three point shot late in the second half, this game could’ve easily gone to the Bears. There’s no mistaking it -- the Friars didn’t ease off the gas pedal in the second half, they turned off the engine and left the car in the middle of the highway. This is a game Providence is lucky to have survived, and not because they made the luck themselves but because Brown got unlucky on a few key plays. The turning point for Providence was Henton and Fortune’s three point shots, but those moments should have been icing on the cake, not survival.
The big question
What happened to Providence’s offense? It’s easy to point Bryce Cotton’s 2-for-12 shooting and say ‘when your leading scorer doesn’t score the offense will struggle’ but there were so many other offensive options. Tyler Harris finished with 21 points on 6-for-13 shooting (including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line), Henton finished with 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting and Kadeem Batts contributed a total of 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting, and 11 rebounds.
While the points add up, the percentages do not. The first half saw the Friars shoot a respectable 17-for-32 from the field, good for 53.1 percent. The second half, however, was far worse with only 8 of the 32 attempts in the second half connecting - good for 25 percent. This low percentage was no doubt caused by the scoring droughts, but why after such a strong first half did Providence suddenly turn off?
Player of the game
Kadeem Batts, Providence: While Tyler Harris scored more, Kadeem Batts was the reason this team stayed in the game. His rebounding more than doubled any one player on Brown’s, and when Providence was in scoring droughts he was the only person to generate a field goal.
Dud of the game
Bryce Cotton, Providence: This is a fickle award to give to Cotton. His shooting was awful and that can’t happen for the lead offensive player on a team, but he is filling the point guard duties while Kris Dunn is sitting out with a shoulder injury, and history has shown that Cotton’s scoring can go down when that happens. He did finish the game with nine assists, so one could argue that he fulfilled his responsibilities, but his first task is always to help the offense get going when it’s needed, and Cotton did not do that tonight.
All things considered, this doesn’t mean anything more than Providence having a bad game.
The Friars return to action Saturday afternoon against an MAAC team, the Marist Red Foxes. Marist is winless to start the season, and while this should be an easy game for the Friars they must find a way to move on from Brown and get back to playing at the level of talent they have on their roster.