RALEIGH, N.C. -- Providence junior guard Kris Dunn just wasn’t himself.
Riddled by foul trouble throughout the game, he had an off night shooting, despite finishing with 16 points in No. 9-seeded Providence's 70-69 win over eighth-seeded USC.
But still, trailing by one with less than 20 seconds left, it was Dunn's shot to take. Or at least, the ball would be in his hands, and it would be his decision who would get the final shot.
He knew it. The Friars knew it. The Trojans knew it too; they planned on it, actually. That’s why with so much attention focused on stopping Dunn and helping out on Friars’ leading scorer Ben Bentil, forward Rodney Bullock was left wide open to play hero.
With the Friars' Drew Edwards making an inbounds pass from underneath the basket, the entire Trojans' defense appeared to slide to the left, following Dunn as he tried to go under a pick set by Bentil.
Although Dunn shot just 5-of-13, he made 4 of 5 3-pointers in the second half, including the one that tied the game with 1:27 left. That’s why he ensured USC’s full attention on the final sequence.
It was more like a distraction, as Bullock calmly slipped to the right, beneath the goal. By the time USC center Nikola Jovanovic realized what was happening, Bullock made a layup with 1.5 seconds left to lift the Friars past the Trojans and into a second-round matchup against No. 1 seed North Carolina in the NCAA tournament.
Bullock, who had his eighth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds, also helped make up for a rough go of it from Dunn in the first half.
Dunn fouled out in three Big East games this season, so when he picked up his second foul in the first half, Providence coach Ed Cooley opted to sit him for the remaining 8:40.
USC couldn’t take advantage of the Friars’ floor leader playing just 10 minutes in the first half. Bullock helped make up for Dunn’s scoring void with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting. It allowed the Friars to trail just by one going into halftime.