It's nights like tonight when fans catch a glimpse of the potential of this Providence College Friars basketball team. The Friars beat the no.17-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats, 54-50.
For the first 35 minutes, the Friars looked like one of the best teams in the Big East. They played relentless defense, led by freshman Kris Dunn. They took offensive fouls, led by Kadeem Batts and, unlikely hero, Lee Goldsbrough. On a night when their outside shooting was ice cold, it was their interior scoring that led them to victory.
Kadeem Batts played one of his best games of the year. He carried the Friars, scoring nearly half of their points. He had 25 points and 9 rebounds while also taking several offensive fouls. He could have easily had 30 points if he hit his free throws better. He was only 5-for-12 from the line, but hit two big free throws with three seconds left to seal the victory. The more and more I see the 6-foot-10 junior develop, the more I am picturing a NBA prospect.
The unsung hero of the game was 6-foot-9 junior Lee Goldsbrough. Goldsbrough came into the game averaging 1.7 points per game. For a stretch of eleven games prior to his surprise start against Villanova this past Sunday, Goldsbrough hadn't played more than seven minutes in any game. In fact, he didn't even play in three of those games.
Goldsbrough played 26 minutes off the bench Wednesday night and brought high energy. He made all three of his layup attempts to finish with six points, all in the first half. He crashed the boards, ending with four rebounds and keeping other loose balls alive. He contested three-point attempts with good run-outs. He made solid entry passes to Batts, contributing to Batts career night.
Thanks to Goldbrough and Batts, the Friars led at halftime, 26-21. The most impressive thing was that their leading scorer, Bryce Cotton, was held scoreless.
Cotton (11 points) would score his first points on a three-pointer with 15:50 left in the game. He would hit his next three-pointer a minute later. The Friars would, eventually, stretch their lead to 47-34 with 6:50 left in the game.
That's when things got a little hairy. The Bearcats went on a 10-0 run thanks in part to some sloppy ball handling by Kris Dunn. Dunn needs to do a better job of valuing possession of the ball as he has been very careless and nonchalant with the ball at critical times this season.
Vincent Council (6 points, 8 assists) would make a clutch 15-foot fadeaway with three minutes left. The Friars would play solid defense the rest of the way, securing rebounds, and making just enough free throws.
The Bearcats did have the ball, down by two, with a chance at a potential game-winning three-pointer. But guard Sean Kilpatrick (18.5 points per game) lost control of the ball at half court when Goldsbrough jumped out to double team him. The ball dribbled into the backcourt and the Bearcats lost possession of the ball on a backcourt violation. That's when Batts hit his two game-clinching free throws.
The Friars improved their record to 12-11 overall and 4-7 in the Big East. Cincinnati drops to 18-5 and 6-4.