- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Providence head coach Ed Cooley admits the preparation leading up to Saturday’s game against DePaul centered more on his own team rather than what the Blue Demons were capable of doing.

“We wanted to make sure we were focused and in the moment. I really challenged them,” Cooley said. “The fact we played them recently, it was a real easy preparation for us because we knew what they were going to do, but they knew what we were going to do also.”

The Friars heeded their coach’s wishes with a dominating first-half performance that resulted in an 84-61 romp over the Blue Demons. PC jumped out to a double-digit lead in the game’s opening four minutes and never looked back on its way to ending a three-game losing streak with conviction and authority.

Bryce Cotton continued his superb senior season, netting a game-high 22 points and handing out six assists. He was one of five PC players to pop for double figures with Kadeem Batts scoring 15 and LaDontae Henton 13 points. Carson Desrosiers scored 12 points off the bench.

The 23-point margin of victory represents the most points the Friars (17-9, 7-6 Big East) have won by in a league game this season. The key may have been not so much worrying about DePaul (10-16, 2-11 Big East) but rather taking a deeper look internally.

The Friars entered Saturday having dropped four of their previous five games. The lone win during that stretch came against the Blue Demons, a team that has now dropped eight straight.

Following Monday’s 83-71 loss at Georgetown, Cooley decided to give everyone a couple of days off.

“We took Tuesday and Wednesday off. I thought our players and coaches needed a little break,” explained the coach. “Normally you don’t like to give your guys two days off in that sense, but it’s not like we’re not in shape.”

Cooley was speaking about his six-man rotation, which he dubs “the ironmen.” It was business as usual for Cotton and his teammates on Saturday, the six ended up sitting a grand total of 12 seconds in the first half before getting pulled for good after making a free throw with 45 seconds left in the contest.

Cotton left to a standing ovation.

“Coach kept talking to use about playing with a sense of purpose and passion and we were able to do that,” Henton said.

Brandon Young poured in 18 points to lead DePaul with Sandi Marcius contributing 15 points and six rebounds.

PC’s last win came exactly two weeks ago. The opponent that day was DePaul. When the two teams met in Rosemont, Ill., DePaul provided Providence with all sorts of fits before falling, 77-72. Saturday, the Friars were in control right from the opening tip.

Providence opened the game on a 23-7 run capped by a sweet feed from Cotton to Desrosiers, who buried a baseline jumper. The Friars missed just one of their initial 11 shots with Josh Fortune (10 points) leading the hot start with two 3-pointers and a layup that came after the Blue Demons turned the ball over near midcourt.

The Friars continued to keep plenty of distance between themselves and the Blue Demons on their way to grabbing a 49-26 lead at halftime. PC’s largest lead was 24 points with 1:38 remaining.

PC shot 64 percent in the opening 20 minutes with Cotton leading the way with 15 points on 5-of-6 from the field and four assists. The Friars ended up shooting 52.9 percent for the game.

“We came out ready to play,” Cooley said.

DePaul was 10-for-30 for 33.3 percent in the first half. The Blue Demons were able to play the Friars to a virtue standstill in the second half as each side scored 35 points.

“I just think we didn’t play with any spunk in the first half. Our energy defensively wasn’t there and offensively we weren’t smart,” said DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell. “We rushed some shots and it seemed one thing led to another.”

The domination continued in the second half. A vicious one-handed slam dunk by Batts came at the expense of Marcius, who was charged with a foul. Batts made the free throw to extend the lead to 52-30.

A 12-2 run by DePaul helped made things a little interesting as the Blue Demons closed to within 74-60 with 4:35 remaining. Purnell opened up his bench as starting guard R.J. Curington did not play a single minute in the second half.

“We played a better brand of ball in the second half, but the first half was disappointing,” Purnell said.

Taking a page from their early game pattern, PC went up again by 20 points when Tyler Harris (10 points) made two free throws with 1:36 left.

The Friars now turn their attention to nationally ranked Villanova, a squad that humiliated them by 30 points when they met in Philadelphia last month. The Wildcats, who play at fellow Big East contender Creighton on Sunday night, will play at Providence on Tuesday.

“The one thing about the Big East is that it gives you an opportunity to face teams twice,” said Cooley. “We’re playing a team that could win a national championship and it’s in our building. We need to take advantage of that.”



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