Providence looks to silence doubters with Sweet 16 win over Kansas: ‘We took this to heart’

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the Providence Brothers are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997, but for senior Ed Croswell, it’s business as usual.

Croswell, 22, told Fox News Digital in an interview after Thursday’s team practice in Chicago that Providence has been building momentum throughout the season to prove the naysayers wrong, and it continues Friday night when they take on the top seed. Jayhawks.

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“I feel like everything we do is making history and bringing back old memories for Providence fans,” Croswell said. “This is a great opportunity for us to make a name for ourselves and make a lifelong impact on the program.”

Providence Friars' Ed Croswell gets a steal in the second half against the Creighton Bluejays in the 2022 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 11, 2022 in New York City.

Providence Friars’ Ed Croswell gets a steal in the second half against the Creighton Bluejays in the 2022 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 11, 2022 in New York City.
(Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Brothers have gone 25-7 this season, including 14 Big East Conference wins. They were definitely the underdogs heading to the NCAA Tournament, but after winning their first regular-season championship in Big East history, head coach Ed Cooley drowns out the noise.

“The narrative about doubt and chance and this and that, yeah, it plays on you,” Cooley told reporters this week. “Players will come into the locker room and talk about it, and I’m kidding a bit, but, you know, there are older guys who just want to try and compete for respect. I don’t. I don’t need to be loved, but I’ll be damned if you don’t respect me.”

Croswell is definitely one of those players.

“When we focus on what we need to do, we can do amazing things,” he told Fox News Digital of the Brothers’ unlikely run.

Providence Friars forward Ed Croswell (5) takes a drop shot as he is defended by Butler Bulldogs guard Bo Hodges (1) during a college basketball game between Butler and Providence on January 23 2022, at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence Friars forward Ed Croswell (5) takes a drop shot as he is defended by Butler Bulldogs guard Bo Hodges (1) during a college basketball game between Butler and Providence on January 23 2022, at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
(Mr. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“The fact that everyone doubted we were where we are right now. We came into this season seeded seventh in our conference. They didn’t expect us to go this far – being in the Sweet 16 and winning our conference championship. They didn’t expect our team to be this good. I think we beat all the odds and earn our respect every game.

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“He challenges us every day to stay focused and play game by game,” Croswell said of Cooley. “Earlier in the year our goals were to win as many games as possible before we got to conference play, then in conference play, lose no more than three games. Then we got into the [Big East] tournament, we tried to win a few games – we lost a few games and then came back stronger. But he keeps us focused and makes sure we stay on track.”

Friday night’s game against the Jayhawks will be the Friars’ biggest test so far. Kansas (30-6) has won seven straight since a 74-64 loss at TCU on March 1, qualifying for the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2018. It’s tied with Kentucky for the most wins in NCAA Division I history with 2,353.

“We have to stay focused,” Croswell said of the game. “We have to be good at transition defense and then we also have to go out and play our toughness and our brand of basketball. I think we’re as good as anybody in the country when we do that.”

The Providence Friars celebrate winning the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament second round game against the Richmond Spiders at KeyBank Center on March 19, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.

The Providence Friars celebrate winning the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament second round game against the Richmond Spiders at KeyBank Center on March 19, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.
(Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

A close look at the teams shows an advantage for the Jayhawks.

Over the past 10 games, Kansas has averaged 78.3 points, 37.8 rebounds, 15.6 assists and 3.6 blocks and shot just over 46% from the field, while Providence has averaged 67.4 points, 35.3 rebounds, 12.1 assists and 1.8 blocks with a 39.7% shooting average. ground, according to the Washington Post.

“It’s about flow and runs. You can’t tell a team what they’re going to shoot in the game,” Croswell said of the numbers. “You can’t tell them what they’re going to do. It all depends on who’s hot and who’s not, and I know if we’re playing defense it doesn’t matter what happens. We’re going to put ourselves in a good position.”

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Providence is just one game away from reaching the Elite 8, but just a year ago it seemed like a pipe dream for the 13-13 team. So what has changed?

The Providence Friars celebrate winning the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament second round game against the Richmond Spiders at KeyBank Center on March 19, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.

The Providence Friars celebrate winning the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament second round game against the Richmond Spiders at KeyBank Center on March 19, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.
(Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

“I think the chemistry has changed,” Croswell said. “Everyone on the team loves each other. We all joke about each other. We’re all close. We’re a very close group, and we love playing basketball with each other, … It’s a very tight and connected group, and I think we love the game together. We all had a common goal. We all doubted and we took that to heart.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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