PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — One of the Big East’s lower-tier teams provided a scare for the conference’s current No. 1.
But No. 11 Providence survived the grueling test given by DePaul, escaping with a 76-73 overtime win Saturday night.
The Blue Demons (12-11, 3-10) led by as many as 13 points during the second half, and still made the Friars (21-2, 11-1) sweat in the final seconds of overtime.
“Really proud of the group. It was a great team win … a resilient win,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said.
In the final stretch of regulation, Providence’s Al Durham fed Nate Watson for a slam dunk that tied it at 60 with 1:34 left. At the line with a chance to put his team up for the first time since the game’s opening minutes, Watson drained a pair of free throws with 44.7 seconds left.
“I love playing at (the Dunkin’ Donuts Center) and I feel very comfortable at the free-throw line,” said Watson, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. “It took us being more physical than them. We executed down the stretch and that’s why we practice hard. DePaul was desperate to get this win but we were desperate, too.”
DePaul only scored one basket over the final 5:12 of the second half, but it was a timely one: a game-tying turnaround jumper by Nick Ongenda with 20.3 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Providence built a 68-64 lead in the extra period, but it was down to a three-point game inside the final minute. Four three throws from Durham inside the final 10 seconds helped seal the victory.
Bynum went 8 of 15 shooting, with seven rebounds and six assists.
“Coach emphasized pushing the ball at halftime and play the way we normally do … trying to get easy baskets,” said Bynum. “When they make it a half-court game, you have to make sure you’re smart and stick to the stuff you work on.”
Durham went 12 for 12 at the free-throw line to help the Friars to their eighth straight victory.
DePaul’s David Jones finished with a team-high 19 points.
“We weren’t able to get into our offensive sets with as much time on the clock (during the second half and overtime), but I thought we executed pretty well during the first half and he helped us,” DePaul head coach Tony Stubblefield said.
The Blue Demons jumped to a 22-13 lead on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers by Courvoisier McCauley. Providence countered with a 10-2 surge with four different players scoring. The Friars moved within two points a few times, but DePaul led 28-24 at halftime.
DePaul threatened to pull away after opening the second half on an 11-2 run that boosted the lead to 39-26. Bynum responded with a pair of 3-pointers, but DePaul was still up 58-54 with 2:31 remaining.
Durham went 12 of 12 from the free-throw line en route to finishing with 16 points. Cooley has dubbed Durham — a graduate transfer who spent four years at Indiana — the Mariano Rivera of the Friars based off his ability to finish off teams.
“When he steps to the free-throw line, I’m not worried. I don’t even crash,” Watson said.
Providence played only one game this week but should be in strong shape to move inside the AP’s Top 10 for the first time since 2016.
DePaul’s leading scorer missed his seventh straight game as guard Javon Freeman-Liberty remains out with a groin injury. A two-time Big East player of the week, Freeman-Liberty is averaging 21 points per game.
DePaul returns home to host Butler Tuesday.
Providence hosts Villanova on Tuesday in the first meeting of the season between the teams.
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