PROVIDENCE — The country got up close with the nether regions of the Big East Conference on Thursday night.
In a nationally-televised contest involving two teams just trying to stay afloat in a Top-25 dominated lead, DePaul held on for 79-76 win over the Providence College Friars before 5,021 disappointed fans at The Dunk.
PC trailed 77-76 with seven seconds remaining when Gerard Coleman had a pass broken up in the lane by DePaul’s Jeremiah Kelly, who hit two free throws with less than a second remaining to secure the win.
The win helped snap the Blue Demons’ 25-game conference losing skid. DePaul had also dropped 29 straight Big East games on the road. Marshon Brooks led PC with a game-high 28 points while Duke Mondy poured in 17 points. DePaul was led by Kelly (23 points) and Cleveland Melvin (20 points).
The Blue Demons 7-18, 1-12) certainly looked like a team eager to snap their painfully long losing skid in the first half. Down 20-14, DePaul ripped off an 18-6 run to go up 32-26 at the 3:46 mark. The visitors expanded the lead to 39-29 at halftime behind 14 points from Kelly and 10 from Melvin. Conversely the Friars (14-12, 3-10) limped off the court after shooting 36 percent from the floor and 57 percent from the foul line.
The only shred of good news the Friars enjoyed in the first half came when Coleman checked in at the 18:15 mark. The freshman guard was held out of Sunday’s loss at Connecticut for undisclosed reasons and had not practiced since early last week. Before the UConn game PC officials had coined Coleman’s absence as “failure to fulfill his responsibilities as a student-athlete.
In an odd move Keno Davis chose to not start Brooks, instead giving the nod to freshman Bryce Cotton. PC officials were mum when asked if the move was a form of punishment, but no explanation was given. Brooks, who had started in all 25 games this season, also reported for duty during the same dead ball whistle as Coleman.
DePaul maintained its double-digit lead early in the second lead early in the second half before PC started to show signs of life offensively. Mondy capped off a sequence of three straight Friar triples to move the home team to within 58-56 with nine minutes remaining. A hoop by freshman Kadeem Batts tied the game at 58-all before DePaul regrouped to go up 66-59 at the five-minute mark.
Melvin hit a floater in the lane over Brooks to give DePaul a 72-68 lead with under two minutes to play, which PC countered with a 3-point play by Brooks that cut the deficit to one. Kelly added to his career night when he rang in a three in front of the DePaul bench with 55 seconds left, putting the Blue Demons up 75-71.
RIM RATTLERS: Noel Kinski, a member of PC’s NIT championship squad in 1963, was spotted in the crowd. Also in attendance was former Friar big man Dickey Simpkins, who will serve as the color commentator for Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against Cincinnati. That game will be featured on ESPNU. … Saturday also marks the retirement ceremony of Ray Flynn and Vinnie Ernst. Banners will their names and numbers (Flynn wore 14 while Ernst donned No. 10) will be raised to the rafters prior to the game.