PROVIDENCE – As he watched one Providence player after another foul out, Ed Cooley took a hard and long look at the available options on the bench.
What the head coach saw was his sophomore point guard in a finely tailored suit sitting alongside a collection of reserves that suddenly found themselves in the eye of the storm. With his options at a premium, Cooley motioned in the direction of Lee Goldsbrough and Ted Bancroft, hoping beyond belief that somehow, PC could survive this overtime session against Boston College.
Swapping Kadeem Batts and Josh Fortune for Goldsbrough and Bancroft may not seem like an even trade, but as Cooley emphatically stated after PC grinded out a 82-78 win over Boston College, “you play the guys that you’ve got, and those are the guys that we have. They’re not in that first unit, but it goes to show you that if you pay attention and you’re ready, good things will happen.”
Goldsbrough’s impact went far beyond the two clutch free throws he swished late in overtime, ones that snapped a 78-all deadlock with 1:23 remaining in the extra session. The senior from England didn’t back down from the challenge of shadowing Ryan Anderson, the Eagles’ top lowpost threat. In fact, you could make a strong case that Goldsbrough’s defense on Anderson went a long way in allowing the Friars to make a strong push to the finish line on a night when fouls where called at an alarmingly high rate.
For much of the night, Anderson had his way with Providence, torching the twines for 19 points through regulation. Then came OT, which saw Batts pick up his fifth personal 23 seconds in. On came Goldsbrough, who up until that point had logged just six minutes.
With a few fouls to play with – a luxury in a game where 55 combined fouls were called and saw six players exit prematurely – Goldsbrough made sure to let Anderson know he was going to watching him.
“We switched Lee on the ball screen because Anderson was in a groove. I thought it changed the game and stagnated their offense because they were going to Anderson every time,” said Cooley. “He’s probably the most improved body in all of college basketball and probably our best defensive player in the post. He always seems to be in the right place in the right time.”
Cooley’s words sum up one particular defensive stand made by Goldsbrough late in overtime. Trailing by two, the Eagles fed Anderson the ball on the right block. A quick spin move later, Anderson got off a left-handed hook shot that didn’t even come close to hitting the rim.
By winning the battle against Anderson, Goldsbrough shifted the focus to closing out the game. Free throws by Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton helped seal the deal as the Friars prevailed on a night when they had to dig deep into the reserve tank.
“I’m proud of our depth,” said Cooley. “It helped us win today, for sure.”
The offensive fireworks by Cotton also went a long way. Playing on a sore knee that has limited his availability in practice recently, the senior pumped in a game-best 28 points. Cotton rebounded from an airball that would have won the game for Providence in regulation to score seven points in the extra session.
“It’s been challenging mentally, but my teammates have let me go at my own pace,” said Cotton about trying to manage the pain. “I didn’t want to let the guys down.”
Henton and Josh Fortune each pumped in 15 points while Carson Desrosiers supplied PC with 22 effective minutes off the bench with seven points, five rebounds and two blocks. Tyler Harris was the third Friar to foul out, but not before managing four points, five rebounds and four assists.
Olivier Halan led Boston College with 23 points while Anderson contributed 21.
Given that his team had to adjust on the fly based on a slew of recent personnel changes, Cooley will gladly take the outcome.
“We prepared for seven weeks a particular style of play that we had to adjust in three days,” said Cooley. “Everyone had a big impact in this game.”
Shifting gears away from the victory, Cooley was asked about the health of Kris Dunn, who missed the game with a shoulder injury.
“Day to day is probably the best I can say. He’s sore. We tried to practice him for a couple of days. He just can’t move,” said the coach. “It’s going to be a process to get him back in a uniform right now. He had an unbelievable preseason, and to have a freak accident like that happen, it’s really sad.
“We hope to get him back soon,” continued Cooley, who said that surgery is not a consideration at this time. “I just don’t know when that will be.”
On suspended freshman Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock, Cooley stated, “That will be a decision I make. The one thing that I will stand true to is that our players have to uphold the standard to play for Providence College where they don’t step out of bounds. They need to do things the right way, and if they don’t, there are consequences.”
There was a nice scene at halftime at The Dunk as 11,102 fans witnessed former PC baseball standout and Red Sox infielder John McDonald bring the World Series trophy to center court, where Pawtucket Red Sox President Mike Tamburro and General Manager Lou Schwechheimer were standing. A video tribute to the 2013 Red Sox was played on the video board, which prompted even more cheers.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03