Big East Notebook

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Friars enjoy big week

Last week, Providence gave an example of how tough the Big East truly is from top to bottom. The Friars had four conference victories, including a recent win over No. 17 Cincinnati, heading into Wednesday’s matchup with South Florida. By Saturday, they had added two more.

The Friars beat the Bulls in Tampa, Fla., 76-66 thanks to an impressive night from Kadeem Batts. The junior forward scored 24 points and pulled down six rebounds, while guards Bryce Cotton and Vincent Council and forward LeDontae Henton combined for 43 more points.

Their home triumph Saturday was much more impressive, as they ran No. 21 Notre Dame out of the building, 71-54. From the start the Friars dominated the Fighting Irish, crashing the glass like a traditional Big East powerhouse would.

Batts was again the top scorer with 20 points, while Cotton finished with 19. Vincent Council finished three points away from a triple-double with seven points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

Providence played smothering defense, holding the Fighting Irish to 39.3 percent shooting and outrebounding them 43-32. The Friars were also very efficient with the ball on offense with 20 assists on their 29 baskets.

After the shellacking, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey called Providence “probably the most underrated team in our league, quite frankly.” Whether he’s right remains to be seen, but going forward one thing is certain: no one will overlook the Friars for the remainder of this season.

And then there were three

The Big East currently features six ranked teams and three of them sit in a tie atop the conference. No. 8 Syracuse, No. 11 Georgetown and No. 17 Marquette each have nine wins and three losses in Big East play after solidifying their statures last week.

The Orange remained in the mix despite losing their third Big East game in three weeks to Connecticut. It’s truly a challenge to win anywhere on the road in the Big East, as Syracuse and the other top teams have shown. The Orange dropped the contest 66-58 before bouncing back and winning 76-65 at Seton Hall Saturday.

Marquette had similar issues winning on the road, falling to Georgetown in Washington, D.C. The Golden Eagles’ loss was the Hoyas’ gain, as they worked into the three-way tie at the top with the 63-55 win. Both teams picked up wins over the weekend, with Marquette knocking off Pittsburgh at home and Georgetown winning 62-55 at Cincinnati.

Game of the Week

No. 11 Georgetown at No. 8 Syracuse Saturday, Feb. 23, 4 p.m.

As mentioned, these teams are tied for first place in the conference, and the winner of this contest will obviously keep that position. The Orange are hoping for a statement win after some unimpressive recent upsets. Georgetown hopes to keep a possible eight-game winning streak rolling. This will be the last time these rivals meet in the regular season, and it will be a classic.

Player of the Week

Kadeem Batts, junior forward Providence

Batts was the key factor of the Friars’ two huge victories averaging 22 points per game. He greatly increased his NBA draft status, as even Notre Dame coach Mike Brey called him “a pro” under the basket. He played as good a week as a forward can and showed he could be a stud going forward, making Providence a dangerous Big East underdog.