Fourth-seeded Providence wasn’t thought very highly of. But that didn’t stop the Friars from working over the 13th-seeded South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Thursday afternoon.
Providence’s 66-57 win over the Jackrabbits assured the Friars of a chance to play into the second weekend of the tournament. Which, should that occur, would mark the first time since 1997 that they played their way into the Regional Semifinals.
All told, it was a pretty even game. But there was one key bracket of time that made the difference. 10 minutes into the first half, South Dakota Stae held a thin 17-15 lead. After that, they scored only six points for the rest of the first half. Providence, meanwhile, pushed the pedal and dropped 16 to take a 31-23 lead into the break.
With the Friars edging out the Summit League Champions 35-34 in the second half, that 10-minute interval proved mighty imperative. Things got shaky towards the end — What a surprise that is! — but the Friars did what they do best. The battle-tested group maneuvered their way away from a 4-13 upset and nearly won by double digits.
Al Durham and Noah Horchler led with 13 points apiece. Jared Bynum was the only other Friar to get into double figures, as the junior scored 12 points off the bench. Justin Minaya came close, as he finished with nine points.
The Friars outshot their opponents from deep, which going into the game probably would’ve felt like a surprising outcome. SDSU is still the top-ranked 3-point shooting team in the nation. But they only shot 30.4 percent from long range. PC, meanwhile, shot 36.4 percent, knocking down eight 3-pointers to SDSU’s seven.
The Friars are now set to take on a quality Richmond team. The Spiders caught fire in the A-10 Tournament, defeating Rhode Island, VCU, Dayton, and Davidson along the way. They uprooted the red-hot Iowa Hawkeyes in their first-round game and are hoping to do the same to the Friars. It should prove to be a very fun one when their matchup circles around.