PC throws away 20-point lead in loss to UMass
PROVIDENCE — Instead of heading into the exam break on a positive note, the Providence Friars will now have eight days to try and remove a burning memory from their collective psyche.
What had the makings of a walk in the park turned sharply on a dime. A drive-and- score by noted Friar slayer Luwane Pipkins put the University of Massachusetts up one with 10 seconds left and Alpha Diallo missed a low-percentage shot from close range on the other end as time expired. PC head coach Ed Cooley pleaded for a call that never came and as a result, the Friars exited the Dunkin’ Donuts Center with heavy hearts after falling, 79-78.
As he sat at the podium, Cooley admit- ted he should have used a timeout after the Minutemen took the lead in the dying seconds. The play-calling was a bit curious as PC went to Nate Watson (14 points) on back-to-back possessions with less than a minute left instead of Diallo, the team’s leading scorer who ended up with 21 points.
“All those young guys on the floor and not being in that situation before … I’ve been blessed in the past with a veteran point guard or veteran guys in the game. I don’t like calling timeouts in those situations because the defense isn’t set,” said Cooley. “In saying that, I need to do a better job with my team in that situation. This loss is clearly on me.”
It was a tale of two halves for the Friars, who led by 20 points at one point in the first half and 18 points at the break but watched the Minutemen outscore them 47-28 after halftime. The stretches of hits and misses didn’t sit well with Cooley, who didn’t mince words after PC suffered a rare non-conference loss at home. UMass shot 60 percent in the second half and held the Friars to 36 percent.
“That’s a game that UMass earned,” said Cooley after falling to the Minutemen for the second straight year. “We stopped making shots and our guys got frustrated. It’s heartbreaking.”
Pipkins once again shredded the Friars, following up last year’s 30-point outburst with 26 points. He had plenty of help with Curtis Cobb scoring 16 points while Carl Pierre swished four of his five three-pointers after halftime on his way to netting 15 points.
After hanging a 50-spot on UMass during a first half that saw the bench provide 22 points, the Friars took their foot off the gas just long enough to find themselves with a real fight on their hands. Pipkins was get- ting to the rim and finishing but he also had help from Pierre. A career 45-percent shooter from distance, Pierre drilled three treys as part of a 14-2 run that had PC on the run and only up three (6562) with 7:52 remaining.
“Once they got momentum, they got a lot of it,” said Cooley. “You can’t lose at home. I’m absolutely (ticked) because of that. Our fans deserved a better coach today.”
PC was able to build some separation after A.J. Reeves (eight points) completed a three-point play and Watson swished two free throws that made it 76-70 with 3:57 to go, but two straight Friar turnovers helped the Minutemen grab a 77-76 lead. UMass came into Friday’s action looking to rebound after falling to Holy Cross at home on Tuesday night.
Diallo scored inside to put PC up 78-77, but PC couldn’t close things out on a night that featured a crowd of 10,427 and a 16-of-25 showing from the foul line. The Friars won’t return to the court until a week from this Sunday.
“We’ll learn from it and I’ll make sure I make some corrections,” said Cooley.
RIM RATTLERS: The next time the Friars are in action at The Dunk, the 2018 Red Sox World Series trophy will be present. Those with tickets for the Sunday, Dec. 16 game against Central Connecticut will have the chance to take a picture with the trophy from 12:30 p.m. until the 2 o’clock tipoff.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
Alpha Diallo (11) and Providence saw their NCAA Tournament resume take a big hit with Friday’s defeat to UMass.
Providence College coach Ed Cooley took the blame for the young Friars losing a 20-point lead in a loss to UMass Friday night.