By Jack Belanger ’21
The Providence College Men’s Basketball Team had an overall successful regular season this year, going 21-14 overall and 10-8 during Big East play. While there were disappointing losses to DePaul University and to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who would go on to finish 13-20 in the regular season.
This left some fans frustrated with the team’s performance, but the Friars certainly made up for those losses with home wins against top 10 ranked Villanova University and Xavier University.
Despite the impressive upsets, many basketball experts still had PC on the edge of being picked for the NCAA National Basketball Tournament. Most people believed the Friars had to pick up a win or two in the Big East tournament to solidify a spot in the field. With a first round matchup against Creighton University, who also finished 10-8 in the Big East, a win was no guarantee. But by the end of the tournament, the Friars accomplished more than enough to earn a bid.
The game against Creighton was tight the whole time as neither team had more than a three-point lead in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Alpha Diallo ’20 scored on a putback layup with 12 seconds left to tie the game at 59-59 and force overtime.
In OT, Kyron Cartwright ’18 scored five out of Providence’s 13 points to lead the Friars to a 72-68 victory over the Blue Jays and a matchup with first place Xavier. Diallo was the leading scorer for the team with 19 points while Cartwright and Rodney Bullock ’18 each had 13 points.
The semifinal game did not start the way Providence had hoped as they found themselves down 17 points early in the second half. The Friars then went on a miraculous 29-12 run to tie the game at 64, sparked by Cartwright and Nate Watson ’21, who had 10 points in the second half. The Friars would head into overtime tied 68-68.
Again, it was Diallo and Cartwright who led the team in OT. Cartwright hit the go-ahead shot with less than a minute to go to give the Friars a 73-70 lead and then drew an offensive foul on Xavier’s J.P. Macura to seal give the ball back to the Friars. Diallo scored four points into overtime and his last second free throws forced Xavier to shoot a three that was too late.
The unbelievable win sent the Friars to their third Big East Finals appearance in team history and first since winning the Big East in 2014. The only team left standing in their way was the defending Big East Champions, the Villanova Wildcats.
While it may have been a daunting task to upset a heavily favored Villanova team, the Friars were already able to upset the Wildcats at home earlier in the season and beat Xavier twice.
After a close first-half where the Friars found themselves down by four, Villanova made a run to extend its lead to 12 early in the second half. Luckily, the Friars found enough magic once again to make a comeback to tie the game late. Diallo gave the Friars a 60-58 lead with 40 seconds left in regulation before Villanova managed to the tie the game and force Providence’s third straight overtime game, a Big East tournament record.
In overtime, Villanova took complete control and Providence was outscored 16-6 in the extra minutes. Diallo finished with another great game, scoring 22 points and had 10 rebounds while Cartwright had 19 points.
Even though the Friars fell short of the title, the team played its best when it counted the most. After a season with several disappointing games, the Friars showed college basketball what they were capable of when they played their best, a team that plays tough defense and hustles until the end. Despite losing the first round of the national tournament, Providence’s remarkable run in the Big East tournament proved that the season was a success.