PROVIDENCE — Looking for one solid stretch in order to put away a gamely New Hampshire squad, the Providence College Friars got exactly what they were looking for with 14:42 remaining Thursday night.

With the game tied at 43-43, the Friars turned the tide with a 12-0 run that essentially spelled the end of the Wildcats’ upset bid. From Al Durham converting from close range and outside along with a strong dose of Nate Watson, Providence succeeded in achieving some much-needed breathing room on the scoreboard en route to posting a 69-58 basketball win before an announced crowd of 4,872.

Remove the dozen-in-a-row and Providence was guilty of sprouting far too many leaks against a UNH squad that is no stranger when it comes to going into Big East houses and making the home team shake in its sneakers. The Wildcats put a scare into Marquette last Friday before falling by five (70-65).

“I don’t think we played our best. We had a lot of mistakes, a lot of errors. They made some tough shots early and that gave them a lot of confidence throughout the game,”  PC coach Ed Cooley said. “Right around the 14-minute mark, I thought we imposed our will. We made a couple of plays and I thought that was the difference in the game.”

The first objective was to cool off a UNH team that had it going from distance. That was achieved as Providence allowed just one 3 over the final 18 minutes after the Wildcats made five 3s in the first half, then made three in the opening stages of the second half to keep the game tied (36-36).

The last thing PC wanted was for UNH was to be within shouting distance during the closing minutes. For Durham and the Friars, there was no time like the present — with the game tied at 43 — to bear down.

“We wanted to empty it on the defensive end and that helped us get easy baskets in transition,” said Durham, who finished with a team-high 19 points.

The Providence team that pulled into halftime did so with a slim lead (30-27) that wasn’t the result of a major contribution from their biggest star. For some strange reason, Watson played a minor role during the opening 20 minutes. He only attempted four shots (making three) in 12 minutes. For the game, he was 7 of 8 for 17 points.

The lack of touches for the 6-foot-10 Watson stood out even more when realizing that Justin Minaya — a reserve, albeit an important one — finished with more shots in the first half than Watson (five). As much as Cooley has emphasized an inside/outside offensive philosophy, it has to be frustrating to see what happens when Watson isn’t the main cog in the machine.

“Obviously, we’re going to try and feature Nate as much as we can, but don’t forget, we’re playing someone who’s trying to stop him, too,” said Cooley. “You’ve got to move the ball, but sometimes he has to get the ball on his own.”

The Friars did shoot a respectable 44% through the opening 20 minutes, though they were just 2-of-10 from 3. Interesting to note, Watson collected his first assist of the season on a three-ball by A.J. Reeves. That was followed by a triple off the fingers of Jared Bynum and a hoop by Watson that pushed PC’s advantage to 20-9 with 8:39 left in the first half.

Similar to how the game against Marquette played out, the Wildcats were determined not to go down quietly. Turning the ball over just once in the first half allowed UNH to remain in the thick of the hunt. Alas, the visitors didn’t have much left in the tank after PC’s game-changing 12-0 surge.

Very quietly, Noah Horcher supplied 10 points and 12 rebounds while Minaya added eight points and 10 rebounds. A blistering 66.7% effort from the second half bumped PC (4-0 on the season) up to 55.1% for the contest.

Now, it’s off to New Jersey for the two-day Legends Classic that begins Monday against Northwestern.

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