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PC fights #1UConn tough, falls in Foul-Fest

PC fights #1UConn tough, falls in Foul-Fest


STORRS, Conn. – So this was not what any serious Hoop Watcher was looking forward to at Gampel Pavilion Wednesday night. Not at all.

The fear for the Providence Friars entering a chance at taking down No. 1 ranked Connecticut was the Huskies massive size and major depth advantage wearing down Kim English’s team. One part of that mix eventually occurred in a hard-earned 74-65 win but the avenue to another victory for Dan Hurley’s team was an ugly and bizarre one.

The game was marred by foul calls, both ways. The calls took UConn center Donovan Clingan out of the game after just four minutes. PC big Josh Oduro picked up three fouls in the first half alone.

But the 29-28 first half ugliness was only a warm-up to what unfolded in the second half. While UConn (19-2, 9-1) never could extend its lead over Providence (14-7, 5-5) beyond nine points, the Friars could not defend without fouling. That led to 18 foul calls in the second half and UConn converting 21-of-25 free throw chances.

Providence stayed in with its physicality but dropped the ball big-time when it had a chance to head to the line. The Friars made just 11 of their 22 second half chances and finished a demoralizing 13-of-26 for the game.

“In order to win on the road you have to eliminate losing,” PC coach Kim English said, “and you eliminate losing by making free throws and defensive rebounding. We need to get better at both things.”

Asked about the team’s season-worst foul shooting effort, English said “we were climbing. We started bad, one of the worst in the country. We were climbing but we took a step backwards today.”

Providence limited UConn to just 40 percent shooting from the field and and anemic 17 percent (4-of-23) from the 3-point line. Freshman star Stephon Castle led UConn with 20 points. Tristen Newton scored 10 of his 16 from the foul line and Cam Spencer shot just 3-of-12 but finished with eight freebies and 15 points.

Providence star Devin Carter finished with 20 points but had to earn them as Castle, Newton and waves of UConn players helping on defense made his night a difficult one. Carter made seven of his 11 free throws but the misses mounted across the roster. Oduro was limited to 23 minutes before fouling out with 20 points and both Ticket Gaines and English were slapped with technical fouls.

PC trailed by as few as five points with 1:57 on the clock after two Carter free throws but could not close the door. UConn kept getting fouled, mostly off high ball screens that PC had trouble chasing down.

“It was a physical game,” English said. “Players are looking for consistency. They’re looking for consistency in the game. You try to be even but we’ll never talk about officiating. They try their best. I thought this crew was very honest in their explanations and that’s all you can ask for.”

The first half took some big turns early thanks to some ill-timed fouls against both teams. UConn big man Clingan picked up a quick foul and then was whistled for an offensive foul at the 16 mark. The two fouls were enough for Hurley to send his 7-foot-2 center to the bench for the remainder of the half.

The Friars took advantage and built an early 16-8 lead but the foul bug eventually hampered Josh Oduro as well. The PC center picked up his second foul at the 11:09 mark and while he went in and out of the game for a bit, he was back on the court long enough to swish a 3-point shot that gave PC a 21-17 lead. But on the next possession Oduro picked up a third foul off the offensive glass with 6:38 left in the half.

Oduro would play 10:52 in the half and the Friars out-rebounded UConn 22-15 but the minutes he spent off the floor severely limited the visitor’s scoring attack. PC would shoot just 38 percent and make just 2-of-10 from the 3-point line and eventually lose the lead late in the half and trail at the break, 29-28.

The Friars kept the game within two possessions for the majority of the second half but as the fouls mounted even the coaches could only look at each other and shrug.

“Me and Kim looked at each other at one point of the second half and kind of smiled and I mouthed to him ‘the f-ing Big East man,’ Hurley said. “This league is unlike any other. These are wars. These are steel cage matches. There are obviously a lot of fouls. Based on how physical the game was they probably could’ve called another 50 fouls.”



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