The Holy War: PC Dominates Holy Cross

LaDontae Henton

The Crusaders of Holy Cross entered Friartown on Tuesday night with the aim to dismantle the undermanned Friars and capture a win against their Big East foe. But Providence had other plans for this holy war, leading 30-19 at the half and led by as much as 30 in the second half. The final result was a 61-42 victory over the Crusaders in a defensive-dominated performance.

Defensive State of Mind: For the second game in a row the Friars kept their opponent under 50 points. Holy Cross shot an average of 33.3% for both halves, but an abysmal 5% from three-point territory for the game, only connecting on 1-20. Although part of the responsibility for a poor shooting night from the Crusaders lies within their shot selection - such as freshman Cullen Hamilton missing all 10 of his three point attempts - forced turnovers, a strong zone and challenged shots resulted in a rough night on the scoreboard for the Cross.

38 Minutes of Perfection: "For the first 38 minutes I thought we played perfect," Coach Cooley said in his post-game comments. "The last two minutes were a circus." Hard to argue with that – Providence led by 30 with 3:36 to go in the game, up 61-31. The Friars would not score again, instead trying alley-oops, crazy passes, and poor shots while the Crusaders went on an 11-0 run to close out the game. The game was well in hand by the acknowledgement of Cooley and the fans leaving, but coach is not one to take lightly to slacking off. Despite that, Cooley acknowledged how proud he was of his players for the effort they put on the floor tonight.

Henton's Back: After some concerns early in the season about whether or not LaDontae Henton was going to be his old self or not, he reappeared for the first time this season as the dominant game changer he is. "Our real LaDontae came to life tonight," Cooley said. "I thought the player of the game today was LaDontae. He got the man rebound I'm accustomed to seeing in the first half." With 19 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks, Henton is playing how the coaching staff, fans, and teammates have expected him to play. More importantly, his confidence – which looked shaken early on – seems to have returned both in his shot selection and rebounding efforts. This will be critical for the next two home games against Mississippi State and Rhode Island.

Cotton's Improvement: Bryce Cotton once again dropped more than 20 points, this time logging in with 27 on 9-17 shooting, including 5-12 from beyond the arc. With Vincent Council out for some time, and the return of Kris Dunn still unclear, Cotton has assumed the point guard role well, and is improving on that role every game. During his post game press conference, Cooley addressed Cotton's improvement, saying, "if there's a more improved player in the last 22 months of college basketball, and that person's not at Providence College, I've got to see him. I don't know who is more improved from the day we walked in here to today, and getting better by the second. If there's a more improved player in America please step up. What he's doing is unbelievable and he's just learning. I'm really proud of him. For him not to be Big East Player of the Month is a joke."

Batts' Foul Trouble: Kadeem Batts picked up three fouls over the course of the game, two quickly early in the second half. While normally he would still be able to see some more minutes other than the 26 he played, the lack of depth (especially in the frontcourt) prevented Batts from finding his groove in the game. He only logged in seven points and six rebounds, a similar performance to Fairfield. While not able to get in sync with the game, he did play well at times, demonstrating his post moves and showing confidence in his outside shot.

Calling All Fans: At one point in the second half, while Providence was dominating on the floor, Cooley turned to the crowd and began encouraging them to stand up and cheer for the Friars. With only 4,596 people in attendance, Cooley felt the need to address the fans and attendance after the game. "I really hope our fans appreciate the effort," he said. "We're going to need a lot more energy in our crowd on Saturday playing against an SEC opponent [Mississippi State] coming to town at noon. Sleep in Friday night, grab every person you got… our players deserve to play in front of a full house on Saturday afternoon on national television. We need a lot of energy in our building. We're very tough to beat in here, no matter if we got five, four, or two players on the floor."

Notes from Coren:
• Sixty-five years ago, there wasn't a bigger name in college basketball then Holy Cross. When they beat Oklahoma for the national championship, the Cross were on the top of the basketball world. Many people took notice.

One person in particular was Providence College's new president, Father Robert Slavin. When he saw Holy Cross, a small Catholic New England school, win a national championship and then took in a Big Five doubleheader that featured St. Joseph's and Villanova, while attending a conference in Philadelphia, he realized that Providence could compete in the world of big-time college basketball. Slavin never dreamed that PC would win a national championship, but he understood that he could build the college and its reputation through a winning basketball program.

His first move to emulate Holy Cross was to begin raising funds for an on-campus gym. By 1953, ground was broken for Alumni Hall and by 1955, the new facility opened. His second move was to hire Joe Mullaney, a great basketball mind who had played on Holy Cross' title-winning team for coach Doggie Julian.

The rest, as they say, is history. PC and Holy Cross competed on even terms fairly quickly before the Friars surpassed them in the early ‘60's. Holy Cross enjoyed a resurgance and challenged PC for New England supremacy again in the mid to late ‘70's, but after that, each school went their separate ways. PC led the charge for the big-time Big East, while the Cross spurned an invite, choosing instead to focus on academics in what was, at the time, a scholarship-less Patriot League.

But as the inspiration for Providence's push into the world of big-time college basketball and by providing the vision, Holy Cross and PC will be forever entwined.

• Line of the Game: After a second half shot clock violation, Ed Cooley shouted at Bryce Cotton, "That's not my fault! That's your fault! You're the point guard!"

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