After 20 years of waiting, Bryce Cotton and Co. bring the Big East Title back home to Providence College.
The year was 1994. The average price of gas of Rhode Island was under 90 cents, Buddy Cianci was in his third year as Mayor of Providence and in the process of cleaning up the city. That year was also the last time the Providence College (PC) Friars were in the Big East Title Game.
Fast forward 20 years later in the year 2014, the PC Friars were back in the Big East Tournament Title Game. Standing in their way was the #2-seed Creighton Blue Jays, newcomers to the Big East conference this season. The two teams split their first two meetings prior to the title game. PC took the first game on January 18th at home with an 81-68 blowout while Creighton took the second game at their home court 88-73 on March 8th, the last game before the start of the Big East Tournament.
Creighton got to the title game with an 84-62 win against DePaul in the first game and then 86-78 victory over Xavier in the second game. PC took a more difficult road than DePaul, surviving 79-74 against St. Johns in the first game and outlasting Seton Hall 80-74. The game was set, both team ready to do battle for the ultimate goal of claiming the Big East Title. But for PC, not only was the Big East Title on the line but a chance to get into the NCAA Tournament.
The first half started off on a different tone. Instead of an offensive explosion, it went to a tight defensive battle between the two teams. Every time the. Providence got up early and stayed that way for nearly half of the first half. It wasn’t until the 11:08 mark when Creighton took its first lead of the game at 9-8. However the lead didn’t last too long. PC then proceeded to go on a 10-2 run, including keeping Creighton scoreless for nearly FIVE MINUTES.
However Creighton cut it down to 18-15 with under 4 minutes left with a couple of quick baskets. But the Friars were able to hold off the Blue Jays to just 2 points for the remainder of the half due to a terrific defensive performance. When the first half finished, PC Friars were up 26-17.
Creighton’s offensive star forward Doug McDermott was still getting his points, scoring 11 points. But he went 5-for-11 on shooting, including going 1-for-6 from the 3pt line. This was due to the Friars’ tenacious defense, getting a hand in his face every time McDermott had the ball. On PC’s side, guard Bryce Cotton went 3-for-8 and had 7 points. He had opportunities on a couple of scoring on some fast breakaways but the layups went awry. Friars forward Tyler Harris led the team in scoring with 9 points on 2-of-5 shooting.
But the shocking statistic was that for the entire first half, Creighton did not have a single free throw. PC, on the other hand, went 9-for-11 at the charity stripe due to their constant play of attacking the basket. Not to mention that the 17 first half points were a tournament low for the Creighton Blue Jays. (They previously had scored 49 and 45 points in their previous two Big East Tournament games)
The second half then began to slip away from the Creighton Blue Jays. After scoring a couple of quick baskets, Creighton looked poised to make some noise. However it then became the Bryce Cotton show. He then proceeded to go off, including a run where he scored 10 straight points for the Friars. The highlight of that was run capping off the rare 4-pt play to put the lead at double-digits.
The Garden was rocking and roaring with PC fans as their team continued to dominate Creighton. It just seemed that every time the Blue Jays got some momentum going, the Friars made a key defensive stop and got a big basket by Cotton. Not to mention the Friars continued with their game plan of attacking the basket, including converting several and-one opportunities.
But then the Blue Jays began to cut into the double-digit lead of the Friars, riding on the hot hands of McDermott. They were able to get within 5 points at the 7:15 mark and continued to whittle away at the Friars’ lead. They got as close as two points for a 58-56 score at the 1:18 mark. But in the end, the PC Friars were not going to be denied. They finished the game on a 7-0 run for a 65-58 win and claimed not only the Big East Crown but also an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Creighton’s Doug McDermott led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including 1-of-3 from three point line. But outside of him, the other Blue Jays had a combined 11-of-30 shooting from the field for 38 points. On PC’s side, Bryce Cotton led the way for the Friars with a team high 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-9 from the three point line. Forwards Tyler Harris and LaDontae Henton each had 10 points, with Henton having a game high 12 rebounds.
Now going forward, things will get only tougher for the Friars. Some may even doubt that the team could make it out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament on just a 6 or 7-man roster. But that will only just fuel the Friars’ on to succeed and prove their doubters wrong. Congratulations Providence College. This is your moment and may this amazing ride that you guys are on never end.
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