The No. 20/17 Providence College Friars held off a game Georgetown team—one that clawed its way back from a 26-point first-half deficit—to claim a 75-72 victory before a sell-out crowd of 12,582 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown Providence on Saturday. Rodney Bullock, a 6-9 sophomore forward from Hampton, Va., registered his best game as a Friar, pouring in a game-high 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Kris Dunn added 20 points along with six boards, five assists, two steals and one blocked shot, while Ben Bentil popped in 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Georgetown, playing without starting center Bradley Hayes who broke his hand in practice on Thursday and is out indefinitely, was led by Marcus Derrickson, who tallied 18 points, and dished out five assists. Jessie Govan, a 6-10 freshman who replaced Hayes in the starting lineup, added 13 points and grabbed a team-high five boards, L.J. Peak had 13 off the Hoya bench, and Isaac Copeland put in 12 for Georgetown.
Going in, Providence was 6-6 in 6th place in The Big East, 18-7 overall. Georgetown was 7-5 in conference play (tied for 3rd with Creighton and Seton Hall), 14-11 overall. As for the supposed “home court advantage, the Friars were 2-4 in conference play at The Dunk.
In other words, both teams really needed this one.
The Friars biggest problem all season long has been off the defensive glass. Providence is the worst defensive rebounding team in The Big East which, of course, gives its opponents too many second chance points. Indeed, Providence was coming off a huge loss to Marquette, in which the 16-10 (5-8) Golden Eagles hauled down 18 offensive rebounds, which were converted into 23 points en route to a 96-91 double overtime win in Milwaukee.
The Friars have been looking for a third scorer to compliment Ben Bentil, the leading scorer in the conference (20.6 points per game) who has been slowed of late with an injured ankle suffered in a 77-70 loss at DePaul in early February, and New London’s Kris Dunn, the second-leading scorer in the conference at 17.0 points per game. Could it be Rodney Bullock who had a double-double (10 points, 14 boards) in the last matchup with the Hoyas, a 73-69 Providence victory in D.C. on Jan. 30?
Before the game, Ed Cooley urged his team to “leave everything out there and have fun.”
And that’s how it started. After winning the opening tip, Kris Dunn took it in from half-court, then parlayed a pick-and-roll into two points with a short jumper from the right side of the lane to give Providence a quick 2-0 lead 15 seconds into the contest.
Two free throws by Rodney Bullock were followed by a trey from GT’s Tre Campbell—his first points in five games—on a second-chance effort, naturally. Tre’s trey would turn out to be his only points of the contest.
Govan made a freshman mistake 2:29 seconds in when he fouled PC freshman Ryan Fazekas making a three-point attempt from the far left side of the inbound line. The 6-8 freshman guard from Chesterton, Ind., who had missed six games this season with mononucleosis, dropped in all three from the charity stripe to put the Friars up by six, 9-3.
The Friars opened up the largest lead of game—26 points (42-16) with 2:17 left until intermission, and headed into the locker room with a 29-29 lead. Bullock led all scorers at halftime with 18 points (6-for-8 from the field, including 3-for-4 from three-point land). Dunn turned in an eight-point, three-rebound, three-assist, two-seal effort in the first half as the Friars shot a scorching 52 percent from the field, including .500 (5-for-10) from beyond the arc.
Piece of cake, right? Hardly.
The Friars got sloppy early in the second half. Very sloppy, turning the ball over six times in their first nine possessions. When you play “hot potato” with the basketball, you give your opponent way too many chances, and Georgetown took full advantage. The Hoyas slowly crept closer, cutting the Providence lead to six, 65-59, with 5:19 left in regulation.
Trey Mourning, Alonzo’s son, hit a trey with just 1:08 remaining, that 26 lead had been cut to the tiniest of margins, 71-70. But Bullock hit two huge free throws to put the Friars back up by three, 73-70. Now it was time for the Friars to throw down the defensive clamps. After a Georgetown time out, Providence’s Junior Lomomba committed perhaps the dumbest foul this reporter has ever seen when he fouled Copeland on a three-point attempt with 10 seconds left. That sent the 6-9 sophomore from Raleigh, N.C., to the line with a chance to tie it. However, Copeland, a 78.3 percent shooter from the line, could only convert two of three from the charity stripe. Providence inbounded the ball to Bentil, who PC coach Ed Cooley calls the Friars’ “Mariano Rivera” (i.e. “The Closer”). That forced the Hoyas to foul Bentil, who calmly dropped in both chances from the free-throw line. That set up a last-ditch shot for the Hoyas’ D’Vauntes Smith Rivera (3 points on 1-for-8 shooting, including 1-for-5 from three-point land), but Bullock blocked the shot and the Friars escaped with a victory.
“In league play no game is going to be won in one half. It’s 40 minutes,” Cooley said after the game. “We’re really, really fortunate and really happy for the group. We prepared well and practiced well and the results were there.”
“We’ve been in a slump,” added Bullock. “Everyone goes through that and it just shows that our team has been resilient. Hopefully we can keep winning.”
This is the second year that the Friars have swept the regular season series with the Hoyas. Before last year, it hadn’t happened since 1994. With the win, Providence improves to 19-7 (7-6 Big East), while the Hoyas fall to 14-12 (7-6). For the game, Providence shot 45 percent from the field (21-for-47) while the Hoyas went 25-for-58 (43 percent).
Things don’t get any easier for the Friars who now must head to Cincinnati where they will take on the No. 5/4 Xavier Musketeers. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.