Providence Friars Shocked After Stunning Loss to South Florida

Scott StuartContributor IJanuary 24, 2010

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 21:  Coach Keno Davis of the Drake Bulldogs holds his head as he leaves the court after his team lost in overtime to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament West Regional at the St. Pete Times Forum on March 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Homecoming weekend at Providence College and the first weekend back for the students from winter break, filled the Dunkin Donuts Center with anxious and excited fans who were ready to show their support for a Friars squad, 11-7 (3-4) as they entered the heart of their Big East Schedule. 

Providence started the game with a recent lineup change of sending Junior Marshon Brooks to the bench and having Vincent Council, Sharaud Curry play in the back court with the usual trio of forwards Jamine Peterson, Bilal Dixon, and Brian McKenzie finishing out the starting five.

Even with the confidence this would be an easy one for the Friars, the Bulls controlled the glass early, building up a four-point lead, including many second-chance points and capitalizing on missed runners and layups from Providence in the paint. 

Keno implemented the full court defense five minutes into the game which proved somewhat effective, but South Florida was prepared with a press break which neutralized the Friars from the getting the turnovers they wanted. 

A couple three pointers from McKenzie and Curry, foul shots by Brooks, and a nice bucket by freshman Johnny Lacy gave the Friars a six-point lead with 12 minutes to go in the first half. 

Coach Davis again tinkered with the lineup and decided to go small with the unusual three guard combo of Council, Lacy, Curry, but it seemed to work as the Friars pushed the lead up to eight with six minutes remaining. 

However instead of closing out the half with defensive stops or drives to the basket the Friars continue to rely on the three point shot.

Ensuing misses provided the Bulls with the transition offense they wanted to run and cut the lead to 36-35 with three minutes to play, and finished only down four at half, 43-39.

The tale of two halves as been a theme for the Friars all season long as they seem to play better in either than the first or second half but not both.

Being up four starting the second half, Friar fans were wondering if this was the half Providence would come out strong and take command of the game.

It sure seemed that way as a commanding fourteen point lead was built with nine minutes remaining 72-58, helped by the full court pressure and good transition baskets from rebounding South Florida turnovers. 

Playing well enough to take that lead, the Friars seemed to forget that there were still eight minutes left in the game, as an angry Keno Davis called a timeout to get the team back in focus after lazy defense and the shooting of low percentage shots. 

South Florida was not going to go out easy, as they brought the lead to six with five minutes remaining. 

However, another run by the Friars brought Providence back on top with an 11-point lead, and then a nine-point lead with less than one minute to play. Game over, right?

The Bulls again refused to lie down and capitalized on missed free throws, careless turnovers, and an inexplicable lack of defense in the final minute of the game to put away the win.

It was a fitting end to prove the ineptitude of a Friars team which squandered the chance time and time again when Brian McKenzie and Sharaud Curry turned the ball over on the inbound.

Freshman Toarlyn Fitzpatrick swished an open three shot, sending the game into overtime before a shocked Providence home crowd. 

Overtime paralleled the end of the second half with senior Dominque Jones, 46 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, taking over as the Bulls took a three point lead and never looked back.

Even with Jones's four fouls the Friars refused to attack, settling for contested shots rather than attempting to close out the game from the foul line.

A continuing theme of the lack of rebounding and zero defense on behalf of Providence, gave them no chance of stealing this one in the last minute of overtime, as the game was settled and Providence lost 109-105.

Not a very warm welcome for the Providence Alumni.