By Patrick McCormack
Providence head coach Ed Cooley’s team had the ball down by one with less than 22 seconds to go. His plan was to call on senior guard Bryce Cotton, who led all scorers with 21 points.
Cotton answered by knocking down a runner that banked off the glass to give the Friars a one point lead en route to an 84-83 win in double overtime over St. John’s, whose stormy Big East season continued, falling to 0-5 in league play.
“We called an isolation for him," Cooley said when discussing Cotton's game-winning shot. "Because we want the ball in his hands, I feel he is one of the best players in our league, if not one of the best guards in the country. He made a senior play; you know seniors make urgent plays. He was very fortunate to make the shot,” Cooley said of his guard, who played all 50 minutes of the contest. “I don’t think about ever subbing him. He is in great shape, he doesn’t think about coming out. I expect that from him no matter how many over times we play.”
This play was set up by a held ball following a St. John’s inbounds play. Cotton was able to tie up Max Hooper to get his team the ball back.
Despite coming up short, Cooley's counterpart liked the way his team competed in the loss.
“We’re disappointed with the outcome of a loss," St. John's head coach Steve Lavin remarked, "but I felt that the team really competed and hung tough to come back from a double-digit deficit. It was a high-level Big East game and we just came up short.”
The game wasn’t always as close as it was, though, as the Friars jumped out to a 14-2 run out of the gate.
“We came out slow, but everyone was ready to go," said St. John's forward Sir'Dominic Pointer. "We were actually too anxious. In the beginning, we were missing open and shots and layups, and in the second half we cooled down and got ourselves more collected,” Pointer commented.
St. John’s cut the Providence lead to 18-11 on a layup by Phil Greene IV. After Providence extended the lead to 10, the Red Storm pulled within six, 23-17, on a bucket by Pointer. The Friars came back again and extended their lead to double digits, and later in the half took their largest lead of the game at 36-23, on a three-pointer by LaDontae Henton.
St. John’s ended the half scoring the final six points to cut the Providence lead to 36-29 heading into the locker room. The Red Storm rally kept them in the game despite getting outrebounded 21-13 in the first half.
The Johnnies used the momentum from the end of the half to make it a three-point game on back-to-back baskets by JaKarr Sampson, who led the team with 16 points, but Providence used four consecutive foul shots by Kadeem Batts to go back up by seven, 40-33. The Red Storm then went on a 9-2 run, taking a 42-41 lead in the process.
The Friars were able to get their lead back up five, 50-45, but St. John’s continued to fight back, tying the game at 50 on a three-point play from God’sgift Achiuwa.
Following the same trend throughout the game, St. John’s made a run and the Friars would come back to regain their lead, as Providence used six unanswered points to go up 56-50.
With the score 63-60, D’Angelo Harrison; who scored 12 of his 14 points in the final 3:35 of regulation and both overtimes, scored five consecutive points to give St. John’s a 65-63 advantage. The Red Storm maintained a 67-65 cushion, but Tyler Harris made two foul shots with 1:28 remaining in regulation to tie the game at 67, where the game stood at the end of regulation.
The main key for the St. John’s comeback was their plus-7 differential on the glass (30-23) in the second half.
The Red Storm came out of the gate scoring the first four points of overtime, but the Friars tied the game at 72 on a three from Josh Fortune. Pointer put the Johnnies back up 75-72 on a three-point play.
However, Cotton was too much for the Red Storm, scoring the final three points of overtime to knot the game at 77 and force another extra session.
It looked like St. John’s had the game won again in the second overtime. Pointer stole the ball and got it to Harrison for a lay-in, putting the Red Storm ahead 83-79 with 1:35 remaining.
Providence (12-5, 2-2 Big East) stayed in the game with three free throws from Harris, which made the game 83-82 and led to Cotton’s late heroics. The Red Storm had an opportunity to win but Greene IV missed a layup with three seconds left.
Greene IV was the one Lavin wanted to take the final shot.
“Down one we wanted a shot attacking the rim," Lavin said. "Phil is our fastest player pushing the ball up the court. D’Angelo spotted up to stretch the defense and create the driving lane for Phil."
St. John's seeks to end their five-game losing streak this Saturday, when they welcome Dartmouth to Carnesecca Arena before resuming Big East play on Thursday against Seton Hall.