NEWTON, Mass. – For Providence College, it was a game that shouldn’t have come down to a close, but no cigar half-court heave by Vincent Council as the final horn sounded.
Closing hard and fast on Boston College in the final five minutes does not make up for 35 minutes of play in which PC struggled to generate any sort of traction on either end of the floor. The Eagles, who led 52-36 early in the second half and by a 72-60 count with 7:30 to play, tried to give the Friars an early Christmas present but were able to escape with an 88-86 win at Conte Forum Wednesday night.
“I don’t think we started playing until the last five minutes of the game,” summoned up Council, who overcame a rough first half to finish with 13 points, six rebounds and nine assists. “If we played hard (right from the opening tap), we probably would have won the game.”
Marshon Brooks agreed with Council, saying, “I think if we played nearly as hard as we played those last five minutes, it would have been a totally different game.”
A furious PC press, coupled with some atrocious BC free-throw shooting, allowed the visitors to make this a game when by all means the Eagles should have been cruising on Easy Street. Boston College, which suited up minus starters Corey Raji (concussion) and Cortney Dunn (suspended for team reasons), dominated the first half and continued to remain effective well into the second half. The Eagles, however, started to leak oil and the Friars capitalized, pushing to within 76-73 with four minutes left and 87-86 with 2.7 seconds remaining after sophomore Duke Mondy canned a 3-pointer in front of the PC bench.
BC senior Joe Trapani hit 1-of-2 free throws with 1.8 seconds on the clock, making the first while intentionally missing the second. PC’s Council then grabbed the ball and raced up the floor. The desperation shot hit the backboard before sliding off the rim, a shot that was ruled “no shot” by BC officials.
After their final push for a Houdini-esque win fell short, the Friars were left shaking their heads. Asked if he felt the shot was good when it left his hand, Council said, “It felt good, but then it rattled out. That hurt my feelings.”
Brooks was positioned behind Council, which gave the PC senior a sense that the shot would somehow be the reverse of Gordon Hayward’s bid (see last April’s NCAA championship against Duke).
“He got a good look and almost made it,” said Brooks. “It looked real good from my angle.”
Brooks’ play crystallized PC’s effort. He shook off a no-show first half to score 19 of his game-best 28 points in the second half. Instead of settling for wild three’s, Brooks put his head down and started attacking the rim, which resulted in plethora of scoring opportunities. Mondy chipped in 12 points while freshman Bryce Cotton enjoyed his best game of his young Friar career, contributing 10 points off the bench while knocking down two triples.
For the Eagles (7-2), Reggie Jackson powered the attack with 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Senior big man Josh Southern hurt the Friars with 16 points and nine rebounds while also getting to the foul line nine times. Biko Paris added 12 points for first-year head coach Steve Donahue.
The Eagles certainly did not look the part of a shorthanded club in the opening half, taking a 42-31 lead into halftime. BC knocked down three straight 3-pointers to begin the game, finishing the half with seven. Providence limped along at 33 percent, the result of shooting way too many 3-pointers (5-of-15). The other main factor was that Brooks and Council combined to shoot 5-of-19.
“We fell behind 9-0 and struggled to get back in the game,” said Council.
BC continued to roll in the second half before Providence (9-2) extended the game with a trapping scheme that worked. The Eagles panicked and left the door open by shooting just 5-of-10 at the free throw line in the final 20 minutes.
Still, the large charge went for not. The Friars wound up taking 33 threes, a total that head coach Keno Davis said is far too many – especially for a club that coming in was connecting at a 31 percent clip coming in.
“I take that many if we’re making a bunch, but we have young guys who are learning what a good shot is,” said Davis. “Sometimes you get on the road and you don’t remember or react differently.”