By Jeff Williams ’17
After a heartbreaking loss to the Villanova Wildcats at a jam-packed Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Feb. 1, the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team fell to 14-10 overall and 4-7 in the Big East, a very disappointing drop from their 10-3 mark in nonconference play. After three straight seasons of making the NCAA tournament, the Friar men will need a great run in order to go dancing again during March Madness in 2017.
After a week off, the Friars flew to Newark to challenge the Seton Hall Pirates, a team they had previously beaten at home. PC enjoyed an early 17-2 run and sprinted out to a 27-12 lead. However, the hosts quickly clawed their way back to a 41-36 deficit at halftime. Throughout the duration of the game, the Friars looked in control, leading for 26 minutes.
However, the Pirates just would not back down and finally took the lead with a minute left. Trailing 60-59, Rodney Bullock ’18RS hit a jumper to put his team out in front with 43 seconds left. Seton Hall knocked down a free throw to tie it, and Kyron Cartwright ’18 could not get a shot off before the clock ran out. In overtime, the Friars took an early lead, but the Pirates fought their way back and put the game away on a layup with nine seconds remaining to win 72-70.
Providence returned to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday, February 11, for the annual Alumni & Family Weekend matchup against the No. 22 Butler Bulldogs. With 12,746 students, alumni, families, and prospective students and parents in attendance, the game started off very slowly. Only 20 points were scored in the first 12 minutes, and Butler led by a slim 25-23 margin at the half. During the break, the school honored two program greats by raising their jerseys to the rafters: the late Bruce “Soup” Campbell ’78, who was was represented by his family, and Otis Thorpe ’84, a former All-Star and NBA champion after PC, who walked out to loud cheers.
In a contrast to the Seton Hall game, the Friars trailed for 27 of 40 minutes, keeping it close, but never feeling secure. Butler raced out to a 47-41 lead, but Cartwright directed a 9-2 run and hit a three to take a 50-49 lead with 7:25 minutes left. Alpha Diallo ’20 stepped up for the hosts, scoring 15 points and making a bid for SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays with a ferocious dunk off of a missed free throw. Emmitt Holt ’18 scored from under the basket to take a 65-60 lead with 39 seconds left, and later dunked with authority to cap off a strong 71-65 win for the Friars.
Saturday marked PC’s second victory against a ranked opponent this season; the first was over No. 21 University of Rhode Island on Dec. 3. While the Seton Hall loss was devastating, the Butler win represents Providence’s first signature win. With another win against Xavier under their belt, the Friars appear to be rolling. The only four games that remain are, home games against Marquette and DePaul, and away games versus Creighton and St. John’s. The Friars may need to win each of them (or at least go -1) to get back into the tournament conversation. It will be tough, as they are 1-4 against those teams this season, but given recent history, no one should ever doubt a team coached by Ed Cooley.