This is the kind of basketball Providence College fans don’t mind paying good money to see.
The Friars displayed the grittiness and toughness that fans love and have become a hallmark of Coach Ed Cooley’s successful teams en route to a thrilling 72-68 win over the Creighton Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon.
The win makes it practically a certainty that the Friars will be dancing come next Thursday. An at-large bid into the NCAA Tourney awaits with this victory. It also means they advance to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, played at the Mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Friars earned it today.
With under a minute left in overtime and the shot clock winding down, senior star Kyron Cartwright drove into the paint and shot a fade away. There was no doubt when the ball left his hands. Everyone in the gym knew it was going to be all nylon.
That put the Friars up four points. Creighton scored a difficult basket of their own, then fouled Alpha Diallo, who hit one of two. That left the door open for the Blue Jays.
A breakdown on defense left a Creighton player wide open for thee. If fell off the rim harmlessly. Game over.
The Friars shot lower percentages by almost all metrics when compared to Creighton. The Blue Jays shot 42 percent from the floor while PC shot 37 percent. Creighton shot 26 percent from the three-point line while the Friars shot just 22 percent. Creighton shot 67 percent from the free throw line while the Friars shot just 61 percent.
But the Friars were the tougher team on the floor today.
They out-rebounded Creighton, had more steals, and turned the ball over fewer times. That’s a recipe for victory. (Key stat: PC hauled in 16 offensive rebounds. Creighton had just 7.)
The Friars were also the more aggressive team, attacking the paint and getting baskets at close range. They also shot far more free throws than the Blue Jays. That led to them scoring 19 points from the free throw line while Creighton scored 12–despite shooting a better percentage than PC.
PC also played exceptional defense all day, despite featuring a smaller lineup than they’re usually accustomed to, with superstar forward Rodney Bullock playing center for long stretches.
Big East Tourney Title?
Sophomore guard Alpha Diallo led the Friars in scoring, with 19 points. Cartwright and Bullock both added 13 points.
Next up for Providence College is a date tomorrow, at the same place, Madison Square Garden, at 6:30 p.m. with top-seeded Xavier, whom the Friars split the regular season matchup with. Each team won at home.