Providence Advances In The NIT

LaDontae Henton

For the first time since 2003, the Providence Friars won a postseason tournament game. The Friars, who earned their way to a four seed in the NIT, faced off against Atlantic 10 opponent University of North Carolina Charlotte in the first round of the tournament. The Friars overcame early struggles on both ends of the court and defeated the 49ers, 75-66.

Hero: Throughout his four years at Providence College Vincent Council had not seen a single postseason tournament. In addition to that, Council would occasionally fall into "hero mode" where he would attempt to put the team on his back and win the game by himself with shots outside of his skill zone. Fortunately for the Friars, both of those situations changed on Wednesday night.

Council didn't have a great shooting night, only going 6-15 (including 1-4 from three point territory), but he hit the shots he needed to in order to get his team going. Council hit the opening jumper for the game to help set the Friars up for an early lead, but his key contributions came in the middle of the second half. With the Friars down two, Vincent Council made a layup with 10:48 left in the game to tie the game at 48. Council got the next eight points for Providence – a free throw, two layups, and a three point shot – to boost the Friars into a 56-55 lead. During this time no other Friar who got a shot off was able to convert. This surge kept the Friars on top and ensured that PC would not trail again for the remainder of the game.

As a senior point guard this seems like it should be standard fare, but given all that Council has gone through it felt more like an ‘at last' moment. After years of struggling both on and off the court, Council helping set the pace to a Friars victory in a "do or die" game was as rewarding to watch as it was relieving.

Bringing Back Bryce: The past two games were struggles for Big East leading scorer Bryce Cotton. Against Cincinnati and UConn Cotton went a collective 9-28 from the field and a staggering 1-15 from three. The shooting slump could be attributed to a chronic knee injury that Cotton has been dealing with, but since the Friars offense relied heavily on Bryce Cotton's ability to shoot, the performance affected the Friars.

Thankfully, that appears to be over now. Against Charlotte Cotton shot 7-16 from the field, 4-8 from three point land, and had a team high of 25 points. In five separate instances it was Bryce Cotton's shooting ability that put Providence back on top of the 49ers. Although it was Council who eventually made the push to put the Friars on top to victory, it was Cotton's key shooting that kept the Friars in the game before that.

Can't Touch This: With a majority of the normal refs the Big East has used in the NCAA tournament, the Friars were left with an unfamiliar crew of referees. The refs were quick to call fouls, and Providence quickly found itself on the wrong end of the charity stripe. In particular, Kadeem Batts picked up three fouls within the first 11 minutes of the game and had to be benched to avoid fouling out early. Despite starting the game, this resulted in Batts only playing 24 minutes and struggling to find a shot in the game, going 2-8 and logging in only 5 rebounds and points.

Lee Goldsbrough also found himself in foul trouble. Picking up his second foul during the final minute of the first half, Lee slammed the ball down in frustration, resulting in a technical foul on Providence, and adding a third foul to his total. With the tech Charlotte converted on all four foul shots they attempted and took a 36-31 lead.

Providence had 18 team fouls for the game, but nobody fouled out. Charlotte, despite having a foul advantage in the first half, had the same luck as Providence in the second half, resulting in a total of 19 team fouls and one player – Pierria Henry – fouled out with 13 seconds left in the game.

As Dunn gets ready to become the point guard for next year's team his growth has been instrumental, but it wasn't until Charlotte that Friar fans began to see how much he's truly grown throughout the season. While his record-tying night in his Friars debut against Colgate will remain in the annals of Providence basketball history, his game against the 49ers is what Providence will need next year to be successful.

Home Court Advantage: The win over the Charlotte 49ers ensured the Friars advance to playing the winner of the 1/8 seed in their NIT region. The 1/8 matchup featured defending national champion University of Kentucky against Robert Morris, but in an upset to rival the ones in the NCAA, Robert Morris defeated the Wildcats and advanced to play Providence.

Because Providence is the higher seed they will have another home game, and despite speculation that the game was going to be played at the Ryan Center, Providence College will be playing Robert Morris in the second round of the NIT on Monday, 3/25 at 7:00 at the Dunkin Donuts Center. The game will be televised on ESPN and ESPN2.

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