Maggie Flaherty ’20
The Holy Cross Men’s Basketball team (1-2) fell just short of pulling off the upset against regional foe Providence College Tuesday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Downtown Providence. The Friars (2-1) come into the 2018-2019 season fresh off an impressive finish to last season in which Providence fell to eventual National Champion Villanova in the Big East Championship Game. Their performance in the Big East Tourney clinched a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but they fell to Texas A&M in the first round.
The Crusaders were not intimidated by their opponent, however – they dominated a sluggish Providence team that struggled to get stops on defense in the beginning of the game with a fast-paced tempo and persistent offensive drives. After falling behind early, Holy Cross embarked on a 13-4 run to establish an 18-14 lead. After Providence tied the game at twenty piece, the Crusaders used another offensive explosion, this time a 10-2 run, to open up a 30-22 advantage. Holy Cross closed out closed out the half strong and held a 37-33 advantage over its Big East opposition at the half behind 12 first-half points from sophomore guard Jacob Grandison.
So far in the first three games of the season, Holy Cross has proven its ability to play well out of the gates in the first half. The Crusaders also led Big Ten powerhouse and reigning National Champion runners-up #16 Michigan 24-18 at the end of the first period last Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Against Michigan, Holy Cross went scoreless for seven straight minutes in the second half, only managed 13 points in the second half, and coughed up 9 turnovers.
This pattern continued against Providence. Holy Cross managed to play well to start the half, actually extending its lead to nine points within the first four minutes of the second half. Yet, midway through the second period, Providence switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense, thus stalling Holy Cross’s drives and slowing down the Crusader offense. The Friars went on to go 20-2 scoring run to lead 57-48. After a quick 9-2 run from the Crusaders narrowed the Providence advantage to two points with six minutes to play, star senior forward Jehyve Floyd fouled out and Providence thwarted the Crusader comeback. They scored seven unanswered to open up a nine point lead that all but sealed the 70-61 victory for Providence.
Grandison was the most impressive Crusader of the night, finishing with 17 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Caleb Green added 13, including two three-pointers in a pivotal stretch in the second half. Other than that, Holy Cross shot poorly (36 percent as a team), but took advantage of a sloppy Providence team to stay in the game. The Friars turned the ball over 14 times, with Grandison, sophomore guard Austin Butler, and senior guard Patrick Benzan all tallying three steals apiece. While Providence made only 56 percent of its free throws, Holy Cross made 91 percent which helped keep them in the game.
Holy Cross will look to focus on strengthening second half play before its Friday night matchup against Stony Brook (2-0), another perennial NCAA tournament team out of the America East Conference. Stony Brook faces Holy Cross coming off of wins against South Carolina and George Washington University. The Crusaders will then face either Norfolk State or Siena on Saturday. Both games will be played in Uncasville, Conn. to conclude the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.