Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton keeps Providence on the right path with win over Seton Hall

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Providence and Seton Hall got off to a slow start offensively, combining for three points in the first four-plus minutes of Friday night’s game in Newark.

In the second half, the Friars leader, Bryce Cotton, caught fire, scoring 17 of his 24 in the second half as PC won its second straight Big East game with a 74-69 win over the Pirates.

Cotton was one of four Friars in double figures with Kadeem Batts following with 14 points, 11 rebounds and LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris with 13 and 11, respectively. Seton Hall, playing without Fuquan Edwin, was led by Sterling Gibbs with 20. Gene Teague added 17 and grabbed 12 boards.

This win doesn’t pad the Friars resume by any means. But Providence did avoid a ugly late-season loss, and remain on the right side of the bubble for the moment. Two weeks ago, PC lost what would have been a marquee victory over Villanova, as Ryan Arcidiacono led the Wildcats out of the Dunkin’ Donut Center with a double overtime victory.

That loss meant Providence had little room for error in the team’s last four regular season games, three of which were on the road. And so far, the Friars have rallied off back-to-back victories. Those wins were over two of the three worst teams in the Big East, though, the Friars next two games will be much more difficult.

Marquette heads to Villanova on Sunday before heading to Providence on Tuesday. Currently the Golden Eagles half a game ahead of the Friars in the conference standings. Providence ends the regular season, in Omaha, taking on Doug McDermott and Creighton. The Bluejays are undefeated at home this season.

Providence is looking for the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2004. Plenty of teams are in the same position as PC, toeing the line between tournament team and NIT bound, and some have leapfrogged the Friars this week. Arkansas swept Kentucky on Thursday night. The Razorbacks moved into the projected First Four, and Providence went from Dayton to the First Five Teams Left Out in the latest College Basketball Talk Bracketology.

March begins at midnight, giving Providence 16 days to strengthen its case and hear its name called as one of 68 teams on Selection Sunday.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.