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Men’s Basketball: Irish offense sputters in loss to Providence

Mike Monaco | Monday, February 18, 2013

A lethargic Notre Dame squad never led against Providence on Saturday, and the Friars dominated the No. 21 Irish in the second half en route to a 71-54 win at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.

Notre Dame (20-6, 8-5 Big East) only trailed by eight at halftime, but Providence (14-11, 6-7) stormed out of the gates to begin the second half, embarking on a 31-15 run in the first 10 minutes of the half to claim a 65-41 lead.

“They’re really good, and they were waiting on us today … and they delivered the blow,” Brey said in a postgame press conference. “That was the varsity versus the J.V. a little bit today.”

Notre Dame had won five of its last six games, including a pair of overtime victories in its last two tilts. Providence, meanwhile, had won three consecutive games entering Saturday and has now won four in a row for the first time since 2004, which was also the last time the Friars had beaten the Irish.

Notre Dame had played six overtimes in its previous two games. Nonetheless, Brey was quick to credit the Friars.

“We’ve invested a lot emotionally and physically over the last week and my demeanor was certainly not to rant and rave,” Brey said. “I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got another one Monday night [at Pittsburgh] and we need to get out of dodge and try to get our energy back and see if we can get some juices back for ‘Big Monday.’ It’s been a long week, but I’d say 95 percent of today was Providence’s performance and they were fabulous.”

Providence junior forward Kadeem Batts scored 20 points, and junior guard Bryce Cotton, the Big East’s leading scorer, poured in 19 of his own. Friars senior guard Vincent Council flirted with a triple-double, recording seven points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

“I think they are the most underrated team in our league, quite frankly,” Brey said of Providence. “They’re really hard to guard. I think [Providence coach] Ed [Cooley has] done a fabulous job with them, running their stuff. I don’t know if it was as much about us not playing great as it was them really playing well. 

“And when Batts is doing that inside – he’s a pro – it’s just almost impossible to stop him.”

Notre Dame trailed by five in the waning moments of the first half, but Friars junior forward Lee Goldsbrough drained a buzzer-beating three to extend the lead to eight heading into the intermission. Providence carried that momentum into its second-half run.

Senior center Garrick Sherman and senior forwards Jack Cooley and Tom Knight were the only players in double figures for the Irish. Sherman and Knight scored 11 points each, while Cooley led Notre Dame with 12.

Providence outrebounded the Irish 43-32, including a 16-10 advantage on the offensive glass.

“I was disappointed in our energy early in the game defensively,” Brey said. “And [Providence] got confident. And I know that’s a team that put 51 on the board in their last game in the second half. I’m really impressed with them and I’m glad we don’t repeat them. And I hope we don’t see them in New York [for the Big East tournament]. They’re really good.” 

The Irish have a quick turnaround, as they square off with No. 16 Pittsburgh on Monday night. The Panthers (20-6, 8-5) lost to No. 18 Marquette 79-69 on Saturday and have the same record as Notre Dame. The two squads sit tied for fifth in the congested conference, one-and-a-half games back of first place. 

Pittsburgh had won three consecutive games, including victories over then-No. 6 Syracuse and then-No. 17 Cincinnati, before falling to the Golden Eagles. Senior guard Tray Woodall paces the Panthers with nearly 11 points per game to go along with 5.4 assists per contest.

The Irish face off with Pittsburgh on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.

Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]