Devin Carter scores 29, Providence beats ex-coach Cooley and Hoyas 84-76

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Ed Cooley helped build the frothing Friars fanbase, so he was prepared for the Providence crowd to aim its fury at him.

“They are like that every game,” the former Providence coach said on Saturday after PC, egged on by a rabid and often vulgar crowd, rallied in the final two minutes to beat Cooley and the Georgetown Hoyas 84-76.

“One of the hardest places in America to play, in this building. Trust me, I know,” Cooley said.

Devin Carter scored 11 of his 29 points in the last two minutes — including seven straight — as Providence came from behind to seal the hostile welcome back for its former coach.

Cooley was cursed and mocked from his first arrival on the court. But it wasn’t until Carter’s game-clinching scoring spurt that the Friars (14-6, 5-4 Big East) were able to finish the job.

“Let’s just talk about the elephant in the room," Cooley, a Providence native who coached the Friars for 12 seasons before angering his hometown by defecting to Georgetown told reporters afterward.

“I couldn’t be more grateful, and thankful, to walk into this building and see how fresh and how thirsty and how great this place is. There’s no better college basketball atmosphere than right here," he said.

Georgetown (8-12, 1-8) led 69-66 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Ismael Massoud and Jaden Epps before Josh Oduro scored for Providence to make it a one-point game. Carter hit a 3-pointer to give the Friars the lead, then stole the ball from Jay Heath and went in for the layup.

Heath wrapped him up and was called for a flagrant foul, giving Providence two free throws and the ball. Carter hit both foul shots, then Oduro hit a pair of free throws on the resulting possession to make it an eight-point game.

Oduro scored 22 for the Friars, who won their third game in a row. Epps scored 26 for Georgetown.

“There was a bit of extracurriculars around the game, leading up to it. But the focus for our guys was on the court,” Providence coach Kim English said. “I don’t know why I was so crazy for a 4-4 versus 1-7 Big East team. Maybe there was something that was going on. It was electric. ... You can never understate how important home court is.”

Cooley left Providence last year to take over in Georgetown when basketball Hall of Famer and former Hoya Patrick Ewing was fired. Providence fans didn’t take that too well and they reminded Cooley of it on Saturday.

A throng of cameras awaited Cooley’s pregame arrival on the court. While the Friars were greeted with applause, their ex-coach was lustily booed and serenaded with vulgar chants up through the first few bars of the national anthem.

But the coach took the high road, finding friends in the crowd and making the rounds to shake hands and hug those who were offering encouragement. A Providence police officer trailed a few steps behind.

Cooley then retreated to the Georgetown bench, under the banner for the 2014 Big East Tournament championship and the 2022 conference regular season championship he helped the Friars win before defecting to Washington, D.C.

Providence went 242-153 under Cooley, making seven trips to the NCAA tournament in 12 years, reaching the Sweet 16 and finishing 13th in The Associated Press Top 25 in 2022.

Instead, the Hoyas focused on the game, putting a scare into the Friars, who were favored by 11.5 points heading into the tipoff.

“I was happy to see Devin. I was hoping he’d miss a bunch of shots," Cooley said. “A little bit of me was pissed at him. But a lot of me was happy with his success. You don’t just recruit kids and forget about them.”

Providence led by as many as nine points in the first half and 12 midway though the second. But the Hoyas scored 14 of the next 16 points to tie it, getting a 3-pointer from Heath and Rowan Brumbaugh’s driving layup that made it 58-all with seven minutes left.

Georgetown will try to end its five-game losing streak when it hosts No. 14 Marquette on Feb. 3

Winners of three straight after losing four-in-a-row, Providence host No. 1 UConn on Wednesday.

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