HELENA — The University of Providence men's basketball team battled closely with Carroll College for three-fourths of the Frontier Conference game, but a timely 3-point barrage allowed No. 14 Saints to come away with a 72-63 win over the Argonauts on Thursday night.
"Every game in this league is an absolute battle royale, Saints coach Carson Cunningham said. "I tell people all the time, it’s an extremely tough league. I was impressed with our guys’ moxie, their ability to stick with it and play really, really hard. I hope the fans saw that and I hope they appreciate how hard these guys work."
The Argos (10-11, 4-7) slowly chipped away at the Saints early on in the half. They were within one point with 13:14 left and slowed the Saints offense down with a few full-court zone presses.
Argos guard Matthew Brooks-Macgregor hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 48 with 11:36 left.
Ife Kalejaiye banked a 3-pointer from the corner. Yes, the corner. Saints coach Carson Cunningham turned to assistant coach and cousin Jesse Repay. Repay just smiled. Cunningham shot a knowing glance back.
The Saints (19-4, 7-4) needed a bit of luck on Thursday. It was also a prelude to a Match Burnham 3-pointer after the Argos were whistled for an offensive foul and Carroll got rolling.
Burnham lost his man in a down screen a possession later and drilled another wide open 3. A once depleted offense became healthy again, and the Saints kept a multiple-possession lead for the rest of the way.
Carroll ran through a variety of lineups looking for sustained flow in the first half. The Saints were a bit out of sorts as the Argonauts mixed in different defenses to thwart the Saints’ obvious advantages inside.
Carroll’s perimeter play proved to be its biggest boon against the Argonauts. The Saints hit 10 of 16 3-pointers while the Argonauts shot just 8 of 29 from deep.
The Argos' bid to upset the Saints fell about 10 minutes and a few points shy.
"We just have to take care of the ball and take good shots," Providence coach Anthony Owens said. "There were times we had a chance to get back in it. We came down and took a quick shot instead of letting it come. That’s the biggest thing with the team right now is they just get so excited to try help our team come back and I don’t think it’s selfish and I think everybody has a good heart, but they gotta understand it’s going to take team work and what we were doing to stay in the game, to pull one of those out."
Burnham punished Providence’s hectic defense, knocking down 5 of 7 3-pointers for 19 points.
Kalejaiye knocked down shots and drove the ball well for Carroll. The guard finished the night with 17 points and four assists.
Brooks-McGregor shot the ball well, hitting 6 of 12 from the field and 4 of 9 from the 3-point line to lead the Argonauts with 16 points.
Steven Daho-Clark also proved to be a solid post player, scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds.
STATS THAT STAND OUT
Carroll had 21 assists, which led to high field goal and 30-point percentages, 57 and 63 respectively. The Saints also shot 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Carroll hosts Montana-State Northern on Saturday. Providence travels to Rocky Mountain College on Saturday.