Friars fumble their way out of Big East Tournament

March 10, 2017 - 2:19 am

[caption id="attachment_5405" align="alignright" width="400"] Ed Cooley and the Friars lost in the Big East Tournament. (Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)[/caption] It was pretty simple, really. Hold onto the ball, and the other team gets fewer shots at the basket. But holding onto the ball was a real problem for Providence the entire night against the Creighton BlueJays, and the third-seeded Friars dropped a surprising 70-58 decision to the sixth-seeded Jays in the Big East tournament quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden in New York late Thursday night. "Well, that was a masterpiece there," PC coach Ed Cooley said in the aftermath of the turnover-fest, watching his team commit a season high 22 miscues leading to 26 Creighton points. "We just didn't play well. I give Creighton a lot of credit. That was, pick who played worse in that game." Cooley would pick his Friars, for certain. The BlueJays outscored PC 26-8 on the turnovers, and coupling that with a less-than-mediocre performance from the free throw line as well (14-for-26), "stinker" pretty much sums it up. "I thought we were lackadaisical. We just didn't play well," Cooley reasoned further. "We picked a bad time to play our worst game in probably five or six weeks. "If you had told me that they (Creighton) would be 4-for-20 (from three) and miss those free throws and have only seven assists I'd like to say we have a chance to win the game," Cooley added. "But again, give them credit." Providence played with a strong defensive effort in the opening 20 minutes, holding the Big East's best field goal shooting team (51 percent on the year) to a mere 37 percent performance from the floor, and the Friars led by 30-27 at the break. But the BlueJays came out in the second half with their own strong effort, scoring 10 unanswered points to seize the lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the way. The Friars had their chances – numerous chances – to catch the Jays, only to either end up fumbling away a possession, or miss free throws down the stretch. "I think a lot of them were mental mistakes, they really were," Cooley explained. "For whatever reason, guys, it happens. You get games like that, normally games like that in November and December. But come March you've got to try to play as clean as you can and we just didn't play clean." That might serve as the understatement of the season, at least to this point. Providence has its season-best six-game winning streak snapped as the Friars fall to 20-12 overall, and they now await their fate from the NCAA Selection Committee coming Sunday. Pretty simple, really. BIG EAST NOTES The Friars were led by Kyron Cartwright's 15 points and seven rebounds, but the Big East's Most Improved Player also turned the ball over a team-high six times. The Big East co-defensive player of the year, Creighton's Khyri Thomas, led the Jays with 19 points. Providence did continue a late-season trend of better rebounding, out-boarding the taller Jays by a slim 39-38 margin. Creighton will face 7th seeded Xavier in the second Big East semifinal Friday night, as the Musketeers upset #2 seed Butler 62-57. The first semifinal will have top-seeded Villanova – a 108-67 winner over 8th seeded St. John's – facing #5 Seton Hall. The Pirates defeated 4th seed Marquette 82-76. In that game, Seton Hall's 6-10 center Angel Delgado narrowly missed a triple-double performance, with 12 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. The Friday winners will meet at The Garden Saturday night at 5:30 for the championship. Can the Big East place 70 percent of its membership into the Big Dance? That seems to be the media consensus in New York, after Xavier's win over Butler. The Bulldogs, who have never won a Big East Tournament game since joining the league (now 0-4), should be good to go for a solid seed with Villanova a potential top seed. Seton Hall, Marquette, Creighton and Providence also stand to benefit from strong non-conference play (the league won 80 percent of its' non-conference games), with the Friars needing a strong late-year finish to get themselves into the discussion. Prior to Thursday night, the only team Xavier had beaten in the last month (during a six-game losing streak) was DePaul, twice. Providence's post-season play will continue with broadcast coverage on 103.7 WEEI-FM, and on