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Virginia bests Providence to win Roman Legend Classic

Friars face first loss of the season in defensive struggle

NCAA Basketball: Legends Classic Championship-Virginia at Providence Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In a defensive battle between the Providence Friars (5-1) and Virginia Cavaliers (4-2), it was Virginia’s Kadin Shedrick who loomed the largest. The 6’11” forward tallied a career high five blocks and held Providence star Nate Watson to just eight points en route to a 58-40 victory for the Cavaliers. That ended a streak of nine straight games in double-figures for Watson.

It was Virginia’s defense that stood out all night long. “That was one of the best defensive efforts I’ve seen in years,” said Providence coach Ed Cooley after the game. They held Providence to just 15 points in the first half on just 6-23 shooting and forced seven turnovers. In the second half, the Friars pulled within as little as six points, but the Cavaliers put on the clamps after that. Providence managed just four points over the last 10 minutes of play and made just one shot on 18 field goal attempts over that stretch.

At the offensive end of the floor, it was the Jayden Gardner show for the Cavaliers. Gardner, a transfer from Eastern Carolina in his first year with Virginia, scored 21 on 8-9 shooting and pulled down 13 rebounds, both game-highs. He was also a perfect 5-5 from the free throw line. Gardner’s 21 points marked a new high for him under Tony Bennett. Armaan Franklin, the Indiana transfer, added 14 points for Virginia, all scored in the first half. Franklin was 4-6 from deep.

Forty points marks the lowest total for Providence since a 2014 loss at Kentucky when the Friars scored just 38 points at Rupp Arena in their first loss that season to fall to 6-1. After hitting 14 of 29 from beyond the arc against Northwestern last game, Providence struggled from deep against Virginia. They sank just three 3-pointers all game, including a 1-9 performance in the opening half. Cooley said that of their 22 attempts, he thought his team got “eight or nine really really good looks at the basket.” Their troubles didn’t get better close to the rim. On 17 layup attempts, the Friars hit just five.

Noah Horchler led Providence with 14 points and 7 rebounds, and Al Durham’s 10 points were his lowest since joining the Friars. Jared Bynum led the team with 3 assists and did not make a field goal after hitting five shots from the field last time out.

This was the first loss of the season for the Friars. “The positive that came out of this was our resiliency to get back into the game,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said afterwards. “This is an opportunity for us to respond to some adversity.” After a short break for Thanksgiving, the Friars play St. Peter’s back home at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this Saturday.