PROVIDENCE – Five additional minutes seemed like a risky proposition for the Providence Friars. Turns out it was.
The final verdict, an 87-84 nail-biter in West Virginia’s favor, only re-opened the wound regarding how PC let Sunday’s Big East contest slip away. Missed free throws coupled with an inability to snatch rebounds on the defensive end were the main culprits. The two bugaboos came back to bite the home team hard when Mountaineers senior Daryl “Truck” Bryant calmly and coolly splashed in a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining in OT, breaking what was a 84-84 affair.
For a Providence team that now resides in the bottom of the conference standings, life in the Big East is a difficult proposition enough without bestowing gifts. Bilal Dixon made 1-of-2 at the foul line to put PC up 71-69 with 2:57 remaining which kicked off a stretch that saw the home team alternate between makes and misses from the charity stripe. From that point until Vincent Council’s last-gasp 3-point bid that fell short as the extra session concluded, Ed Cooley could only watch as the Friars made just 5-of-10 from the line.
Two of the ill-timed misses came in the final 29.4 seconds of the second half and enabled the Mountaineers to push the game into overtime when Bryant saw a gap lurking in PC’s interior, hitting a driving shot with four ticks remaining. The same problem reared its ugly head right before Bryant’s winner when Gerard Coleman missed the first of two free throws at 11.8 seconds before regaining composure and hit the second to tie the game.
It goes without saying that leaving that many points on the table in a close game hurts.
“We’re fortunate that they missed some free throws,” was the thank you note West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins sent the Friars’ way.
The Mountaineers were also fortunate in that the Friars provided them with additional cracks on the offensive end. West Virginia amassed 17 offensive rebounds that resulted in 23 second-chance points. A putback of a Bryant miss by Kevin Jones kept the pressure squarely in PC’s corner after Jones made it 75-74 with 12.3 seconds flashing on the scoreboard.
“We get that rebound, it’s a different tune,” said Cooley.
The teams traded punches in overtime with neither side going up more than two points – that is until Bryant unleashed a dagger over Coleman, who to his credit was making the West Virginia senior work extra hard to get off a shot.
“You know me, I was going to shoot it anyway,” said Bryant following his 32-point masterpiece with 24 of those points materializing in the second half and overtime.
Lost in all the misses at the free-throw line was the fact Coleman delivered a career-best 30 points on 9-of-15 shooting. The sophomore went 12-of-16 from the line, a figure that indicates the kind of success he was reaping when taking the ball to the rim.
“He’s a great athlete,” was the compliment Huggins paid to Coleman. “When he got the rim and didn’t score, he just jumped over the top of us.”
The Friars were able to hold Jones, the Big East’s leader in points and rebounding, in check for the most part (20 points, five rebounds). The Mountaineer who was able to pick up the slack was Turkish-born junior Deniz Kilicli, who torched PC down low with array of baby hook shots that led to a personal-best 22 points.
Council also had a bid to play hero at the end of regulation but his running 25-footer was off target. The junior finished with 16 points and nine assists. LaDontae Henton added 17 points and six rebounds while Bryce Cotton poured in 15 points, though just three came following halftime. The most amazing stat for the Friars was that three players – Coleman, Council and Cotton – never came off the floor once during the 45-minute exercise with Henton logging 42 minutes.
The first half saw the Friars throw a very good effort at the Mountaineers, a team saddled with a three-game losing skid entering Sunday. PC hit 14-of-16 shots to begin the game to open up a 32-17 lead. At that point West Virginia finally began showing signs of life, riding the wave that was a 16-5 surge that sliced Providence’s lead to four points. A 3-point make by Cotton just as the buzzer sounded allowed the Friars to breath a little bit easier at halftime, 42-36.
PC pushed the lead back to double figures early in the second half behind four points from Coleman and a trey by Henton, one of five he hit. At that point the issue became whether the Friars would be able to keep the Mountaineers (16-8 overall, 6-5 in Big East play) at bay, but it simply wasn’t in the cards.
“This game was a clear example of a team that has won and a team learning how to win, plain and simple,” Cooley said.
RIM RATTLERS: Cooley noted that sophomore Lee Goldsbrough had a touch of food poisoning, hence why he wasn’t on the bench. Council and Dixon were also a bit under the weather. … Much ballyhooed prospect Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-10 dynamo, sat behind the Friar bench at the start of the game before jetting to Rhode Island College in time for Tilton (N.H.) School’s 1:30 game as part of the National Prep School Invitational. … PC has now lost eight straight against Big 12-bound West Virginia. … Cooley was very complimentary of the 8,122 patrons that came out to The Dunk on Super Bowl Sunday. “I feel bad for the fans that we’ve lost some really close games because these fans have given everything to our kids.” … The Friars did not receive a single bench point.