A Villain’s Welcome: Providence downs men’s basketball in Cooley’s unwelcome return

January 29, 2024

Photo by Daniel Rankin

On Jan. 27, Georgetown men’s basketball (8-12, 1-8 BIG EAST) fell to the Providence Friars (14-6, 5-4 BIG EAST) 84-76 in Georgetown head coach Ed Cooley’s highly anticipated return to Providence, where he coached for 12 seasons. As expected, there is no love lost between Providence fans and their former coach. 

Boos greeted Cooley as he walked out onto the court at the Amica Mutual Pavillion in Providence, R.I.. The jeers and chants continued throughout the game as a full crowd of Friars fans let out all their frustrations and anger at Cooley.

The game started as a close contest with neither team really able to pull away. This was reassuring for Hoya fans, because although Providence was heavily favored leading up to the game, the Hoyas looked like they would fiercely contest every point.  It was clear from the get-go that both teams’ offenses would rely on their standout guards: for the Hoyas, sophomore guard Jayden Epps, and for the Friars, junior guard Devin Carter—a player who, like much of the Providence team, was recruited by Cooley. 

A little over halfway through the first half, the game was tied at 22. However, Providence scored eight unanswered points, sparked by a Carter alleyoop dunk. It looked like Georgetown might be destined for another collapse, but the Hoyas didn’t panic despite the momentum and crowd favoring the Friars. Freshman guard Rowan Brumbaugh made a pair of free throws to stop the Hoyas’ scoring drought, and Georgetown narrowed their deficit to enter halftime only down 37-33.

All things considered, the first half went fairly well for the Hoyas. They survived a Providence run and weren’t too affected by the hostile crowd. However, there were still a few concerning signs. The Hoyas went 3-11 from deep, and especially worryingly, Epps did not make any of his five three point attempts. Overall, the Hoyas did not score the ball efficiently at all, shooting 12-34 from the field. 

The start of the second half did not do much to assuage those concerns. Slowly but surely, Providence built a commanding 12-point lead, and it looked like they might run away with the game. However, graduate forward Ismael Massoud—one of the most consistent Hoya players so far this season—came up with a huge three-pointer to stop the Friars’ momentum in its tracks. Georgetown then seized the momentum back, going on a 14-2 run to tie the game at 58. 

The teams went back and forth until Massoud made another huge three-pointer to tie the game at 66. Epps, who had started the game 0-9 on three-pointers, followed Massoud’s shot up with another three to give the Hoyas a 69-66 lead, their first lead of the half. Just then, as Hoya fans’ excitement peaked, the momentum swung right back in Providence’s favor.

Friars graduate forward Josh Oduro made a layup, and Carter made a three-pointer to give Providence the lead back at 71-69. On the ensuing possession the Hoyas were taking the ball up the court when Carter jumped in front of a pass from Georgetown senior guard Jay Heath and stole the ball for the Friars. As Carter was on the fastbreak with a clear path to the rim, Heath grabbed and fouled the Providence guard, who still made a layup despite the foul. The referees called a flagrant foul on Heath for grabbing Carter without making an attempt at the ball. That means that Carter’s layup counted, he got two additional free throws, and Providence retained possession of the ball after the free throws.

Carter made both free throws, and on Providence’s ensuing possession, Oduro was fouled and made both free throws, to give the Friars a 77-69 lead with just under 90 seconds left. There was no hope left for the Hoyas at that point. The Hoyas tried to get back into the game, but Carter jumped in front of another poor pass, this time from Brumbaugh, and put an exclamation mark on Providence’s 84-76 win with a windmill dunk.

The result was disappointing for the Hoyas, to say the least. In a game that grabbed national attention, Georgetown suffered yet another late collapse. Although the energy and passion from the Hoyas was admirable, there really weren’t many positive takeaways from this game. Georgetown made too many avoidable mistakes in key moments, and it cost them. The main positive is that on Mar. 5, the Friars will travel to Capital One Arena and the Hoyas will have a chance at redemption. Until then, though, the Hoyas will have a bitter taste in their mouth from this tough defeat. 

The Hoyas will face another tough test at 2 p.m. EST on Saturday Feb. 3 when they host the No. 14 Marquette Golden Eagles (13-3, 4-2 BIG EAST) at Capital One Arena. The game will be broadcast on FS1. For continued coverage and updates on Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.

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