As Providence entered Thursday’s Big East quarterfinal game against St. John’s, the Friars were probably counting on senior guard Bryce Cotton to come through in the clutch in what basically amounted to an NCAA Tournament play-in game.
But with both bubble teams in a back-and-forth battle, No. 4 seed Providence was still able to come out on top, despite only one made field goal from its All-American, as the Friars held off the No. 5 seed Red Storm, 79-74, at Madison Square Garden.
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Cotton only finished with 12 points on 1-for-9 shooting from the field, but his Providence teammates stepped up in a big way against St. John’s. Sophomore guard Josh Fortune paced the Friars with 24 points while junior forward LaDontae Henton (16 points, 11 rebounds) and senior forward Kadeem Batts (13 points, 12 rebounds) both finished with double-doubles.
Providence (21-11) only played six players in the contest on Thursday but also had double-digit rebounds from forward Tyler Harris (six points, 10 rebounds) and reserve forward Carson Derosiers (eight points, 10 rebounds). All six of Providence’s players that played on Thursday had either double-digit points or rebounds and the balanced team contribution helped offset the off-day from Cotton, who usually averages 21 points a game.
St. John’s (20-12) cut the Providence lead to 69-68 with 43 seconds remaining, but the Friars won possession on a held ball and Cotton buried two free throws on the ensuing possession to help put the game away. The Red Storm mounted a furious comeback, as they trailed 63-48 with 6:07 remaining, but ultimately fell short as they’re likely headed for the NIT. D’Angelo Harrison led St. John’s with 24 points on the afternoon while Rysheed Jordan (17 points) and Jakarr Sampson (15 points) also finished in double-figures.
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Providence led the entire second half and now the No. 4 seed Friars will meet the No. 8 seed Seton Hall in the Big East quarterfinals on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.