Providence (5-0) vs. La Salle (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, November 24, 9:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sports and Fitness Center (4,000) -- St. Thomas, Virginia Islands. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Providence 4-0, La Salle 2-1. Away Record: Providence 0-0, La Salle 0-1. Neutral Record: Providence 1-0, La Salle 1-0. Conference Record: Providence 0-0, La Salle 0-0. Series Record: La Salle leads, 3-2.
GAMES NOTES: In the second semifinal matchup of the Paradise Jam, the Providence Friars will go head-to-head with the La Salle Explorers at the Sports and Fitness Center in St. Thomas on Sunday.
Based on the first five games it is Providence that looks more like the team coming off a deep NCAA Tournament run, as the Friars own a perfect 5-0 mark entering play. The Friars were able to outlast Vanderbilt, 67-60, in Friday night's opening round after winning four straight games at home to open the season.
The Explorers have yet to consistently show the flash of brilliance that led them to the Sweet 16 a year ago. Against Morgan State on Friday, La Salle used strong shooting from beyond the arc to roll to a 78-69 victory. The victory came on the heels of a 79-72 road loss to Penn State for the Explorers, who are 3-2 overall.
The winner of this contest will face off with either Northern Iowa or Maryland for the tournament title. The loser of each contest will be paired off to determine the third-place finisher.
The Explorers and Friars also matched up in an in-season tournament during the 2010-11 season when they met during the Cancun Challenge. La Salle claimed a 84-73 victory in that contest to take a 3-2 lead in the all-time series.
The Friars roared back in the second half to top Vanderbilt on Friday. Providence ripped off a 27-4 run in the final 10 minutes while forcing four turnovers and holding the Commodores to just a single field goal on 10 tries. Providence scored 22 points off turnovers in the game and had only 10 giveaways itself.
Lost in the celebration of the rally was the continued poor shooting from Bryce Cotton. The 6-foot-1 guard is netting a team best 18.8 points per game but he is shooting at just a 41.3 percent rate, while having hit only a quarter of his attempts from beyond the arc. Cotton had 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting against Vanderbilt. Cotton is aided by three other double-figure scorers. LaDontate Henton (15.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Kadeem Batts (13.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg) are a potent duo down low. Henton has some range and can step back and hit a 3-pointer, while Batts is a more traditional brawler in the paint. Tyler Harris (11.5 ppg) is another double-digit scorer in the frontcourt.
Tyrone Garland erupted for 25 points, hitting 4-of-10 shots from 3-point range, to lead the Explorers to victory last time out. Garland was one of four players in double figures for La Salle, which hit nine shots from beyond the arc in a game in which it led by as many as 22 points.
Such wide margins of victory have not been the norm for the Explorers, who currently own a scoring differential of +2.6. The positive number has come despite a 41.1 percent shooting performance, as the Explorers have made nearly 50 more free-throws than their opponents. Garland (18.8 ppg) and Tyreek Duren (17.0 ppg) have each had 30 attempts from the free-throw line already this year. That has helped the duo continue to score at an accelerated rate, despite both making good on less than 40 percent from the field. Jerrell Wright (12.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) is the scorer on the low block with Steve Zack (8.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg) serving as a sturdy complement.
Efficiency on offense has not been something either of these teams has enjoyed. Henton and Batts should be able to contend with the Explorers' frontcourt duo but the strong selection of guards, including Sam Mills, for the Explorers will be able to outshoot Cotton.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: La Salle 77, Providence 73
11/24 10:33:01 ET