Frustrated with the way his team was getting off to slow starts and not playing defense, Providence College Friars head coach Ed Cooley decided to shake things up before his team's home tilt with the University of Connecticut Huskies. The end result was an all-too familiar one-- close, but no cigar. PC fell to UConn in overtime, 82-79.
He informed his team earlier in the day that the team's leading assist man, Vincent Council, and the team's third-leading scorer and leading rebounder, LaDontae Henton (14.2 points, 8.2 rebounds per game), would start the game on the bench. The team's two lowest scoring players, Lee Goldsbrough (1.4 ppg) and Ted Bancroft (0.8 ppg), started in their place.
It was a bold move. After the first nine minutes of the game, it appeared to be not a very prudent move. Connecticut was up, 25-10, with 10:47 remaining in the first half. That is when Council entered the game for the first time. Henton had checked in seven minutes earlier.
Council apparently was benched a little longer for leaking out the lineup changes on Twitter to former teammate Gerard Coleman. Council tweeted to his friend, "I don't even joke that ted starting and lee for me and buckets!!" "Buckets" is the nickname for Henton.
Council led a resurgence for the Friars. He, immediately, contributed two assists and a layup of his own to cut the lead to 25-16. Council would finish with 15 points and 10 assists. He played with high energy and didn't seem to settle for getting his team into merely a half-court offense. He pushed the ball hard and looked to go coast-to-coast on seemingly every possession.
Henton also played well once he entered the game. He finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. He also made key free throws down the stretch, finishing 9-for-10 from the line. He also was the victim of a missed call which I thought was pivotal in the game. With 1:01 left in regulation and the Friars down, 68-66, Henton was fouled on a layup. The officials missed an obvious goaltend by UConn's 7-1 center Enosch Wolf. The potential three-point play would have given PC a one-point lead and changed the complexion of the last minute.
The officiating for the entire game was frustrating. An amazing fifty-five total fouls were called in the game. Two Friars (Council and Kris Dunn) and three Huskies fouled out of the game. Henton and Kadeem Batts finished the game with four fouls.
Equally as frustrating was the fact that Friars out-rebounded Connecticut, 49-21. The advantage on the offensive boards was even more slanted, 23-4. The Friars dominated from the free throw line, converting 32 of 39 free throws (82.1%). Providence did everything well except for putting the ball in the basket and covering the perimeter on defense at key points in the game. Connecticut was 9-for-17 (52.9%) from three-point range.
From the point Council entered the game, it was one of the more entertaining performances of the year by PC. The crowd at the Dunkin' Donuts Center was as electric as it's been all season. Bryce Cotton (18 points) nailed two huge three-pointers in the final minutes of regulation. It was a rare off-game for the Big East's leading scorer, though, as those were the only three-pointers he made in ten attempts.
While Providence has been entertaining, the fan base may be starting to get impatient with the lack of victories. The honeymoon period with Coach Cooley may be coming to an end. The Friars are now 6-21 in the Big East since Cooley took over. There is no questioning Cooley's ability as a motivator and recruiter, but questions may be arising about his X's and O's and personnel decisions. Winning games down the stretch a lot of times comes down to coaching.