Providence pulls out gritty win to advance

Editor’s note: Students attending #CMANYC22’s Big East Tournament Pre-Con Workshop had the opportunity to cover games and write stories from the tournament.

By Tyler Howe 
Slippery Rock University, The Rocket 

College basketball in March is always unpredictable and wild. Every year a new shocking moment happens. The matchup between No. 9 seed Butler and No. 1 seed Providence proved that even further. 

Less than 24 hours removed from their 89-82 victory over the No. 8 seed, Xavier, the Bulldogs returned to action and faced a daunting task. In order to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive they had to somehow knock off the Friars. 

Less than a month ago, Providence struggled on the road against the Bulldogs and pulled out a 71-70 overtime win. This time the stage was much bigger. 

“First and foremost, I thought we played a great team today, I mean, these guys fought right to the end,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “They had us on our toes the whole time, [it] wasn’t pretty out there.”

Early on Nate Watson made his presence known. He made two straight layups to give the Friars a 9-3 advantage. The lead disappeared just as fast as they got it, however. In the ensuing four minutes of action the lead changed four times. 

Butler’s inability to pull away as the first half progressed came back to haunt them. Watson once again made a statement with a second chance dunk with just over 30 seconds to the go in the half, giving the Friars a 31-29 edge. Only six seconds before the first period of play expired, Butler’s Chuck Harris evened the game at 31. 

“I thought we had a couple opportunities right at the rim that we didn’t put in, put those away and now they have to respond,” Butler head coach LaVall Jordan said. “You know, that might have changed it, but our guys responded the entire day.” 

When the second half kicked off, Butler wasted little time before pulling ahead with a free throw from Bo Hodges. No lead in the second half was safe though. Just like in the first half, Providence relied on the playmaking abilities of Watson. Butler seemed to know that would be the case and after Watson converted a layup off his own offensive rebound, he was held silent for nearly nine minutes of action. 

But as Watson went silent, the Madison Square Garden crowd came alive. All of a sudden, a neutral site game felt like a home game for the Friars, as every time Butler had the ball the audience made them think. 

Butler held a one-point advantage with under 90 seconds of play left. But just as the Bulldogs were starting to believe they were going to pull off the upset of the tournament, Aljami Durham found the perfect time to hit his first three pointer in nearly two months. Durham, who had only two points and was 0-7 on field goals up to that point, hit the go ahead shot almost completely unguarded. 

“[I was] just told that Durham’s last three he made was in January, I would laugh at that too,” Cooley said. “But you know what? He made it and I trust him, he’s made some big shots for us the whole time.” 

As the clock expired, Durham put the icing on the cake with a game sealing dunk as the clock hit triple zeroes. The four-point win advances them into the semifinals as they look to continue their quest for Big East tournament title, and it sends the Bulldogs packing. 

To coach Cooley, this game was just another representation of the year they’ve had. The win wasn’t pretty, but all that matters now is that they live to fight another day.

“We didn’t do a lot of things great, but we did enough to win,” Cooley said. “I think today was a microcosm of the type of season that we’re having.” 

Posted on: March 12, 2022, by : CMANYC16admin