Friars Declaw Falcons

Providence College opened the 2010-2011 campaign with an exhibition against Division II powerhouse Bentley and slipped past the game Falcons, 83-76 in front of 4,151 fans at the Dunk.

For the Friars, who will play only one exhibition game this season before opening up for real next Saturday against Dartmouth, the game offered a critical opportunity to get a large group of young and inexperienced players up to speed quickly. Along with that, getting a taste of victory and actual game experience was also crucial. And for a number of players, actually seeing the Dunkin' Donuts Centers for the first time was important, as well.

"This was our very first day at the Dunk," said Keno Davis. "It's the first time six scholarship players have even seen the floor down at the Dunk, even during their recruiting visits. Bryce Cotton came in and said to me, ‘Hey, this is nice.' All they saw was cement when they visited."

The game itself, while anticlimactic as all exhibition games are, was interesting from a fan's perspective. Bentley has long been a Division II power, and returned many of the players who led last year's team to a 26-7 record and the national final eight. In addition, while not a tall team, the Falcons are very strong and not easily muscled out of position.

Bentley grabbed a 23-15 lead on a three pointer by Tom Dowling, a shooter with limitless range, and still led 26-21 after a three by Brian Tracey. At that point, PC switched to zone and answered with it's one sustained run of the game, outscoring Bentley 20-4 over a five minute period. During that stretch, the Friars forced turnovers, converted jump shots and lay-ups and when Dre Evans nailed a three, the Friars led 41-30.

Bentley would challenge in the second half but never regain the lead. A three by Tracey closed the gap to 47-45, but PC opened a 61-49 lead on another Evans three and a Cotton transition bucket. The Falcons kept charging though, sparked an exhibition of outstanding three point shooting, and a Sam LeClerc three narrowed the gap to 64-61.

Baskets by Kadeem Batts, Bilal Dixon and Marshon Brooks pushed the margin to 72-61, but Dowling and company kept firing away and the Falcons crept as close as 77-74 with 1:18 left before free throws by Vincent Council, Duke Mondy and Brooks sealed the win.

Bentley presented a huge problem defensively for PC. The Falcons featured a five guard, five-out offense and every player had the ability to flat-out shoot. The Falcons repeatedly drove against PC's zone and man defenses and dished to wide open three point shooters. "I was stubborn," said Davis. "I probably would have been better off going small and not playing any fours or fives. I'd have been better off having Marshon playing center. But I wanted our players to get experience. For the first thirty minutes, it was all about getting our guys minutes and experience. For the last ten minutes, it was about winning." What won the game for PC was crushing Bentley on the boards 47-32, and getting to the free throw line in the second half.

Player-wise, the Friars offer a mixed bag. Marshon Brooks is clearly the most developed, best shooting player on the team. Brooks scored throughout the game, finishing with 27 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. He clearly wants to be the leader, clearly looks to take over when the going is getting tough, but that still leads to some bad decisions and trying to do too much. There were a couple of forced shots, a couple of travel calls on forced drives and turnovers and his passing must improve. As other players develop this season, and he can allow the game to come to him, he'll be the better for it.

Dixon is clearly playing hurt and is banged up. To his credit he is trying to play through it, and the week before Dartmouth should help. Council is another who is playing through some bumps and bruises and he struggled with his shot but finished with 17 points. He's better when he doesn't have to shoot as much and can set up teammates but this team needs him to score.

Kadeem Batts looked much improved, has a great body and runs well. He'll catch the ball with his back to the basket and look to turn and make a move, but needs to continue to refine his offensive game. He also needs to play harder to make a true impact. Duke Mondy is stronger but still inconsistent offensively. Still, he fights inside against bigger player and plays with heart. When he becomes more consistent with his outside shot, he'll be a solid player for the Friars.

Gerard Coleman started and had a quiet game with 6 points on 2-7 shooting. He hit his first three but missed his other two. Coleman is thin and wiry and struggled with the strength of the Falcon players. He is clearly at his best in the open floor and needs to slash to the hoop more often at this point to be at his most effective, which is difficult when the transition game is bogged down. Cotton is another player in that mold… a good slasher who will finish well, but he'll need to develop his jump shot to make an impact.

Evans looked solid as Council's back-up and despite a flat trajectory on his jumper, nailed two threes at critical times with hands in his face. A tough, physically strong player, Evans should be able to spell Council at the point adequately. Ron Giplaye played just four minutes and none in the second half, but he's another physically strong player who hustles and plays with a chip. His offense is limited but he should provide help on the glass.

Lee Goldsbrough is an intriguing prospect. He's a tall 6'9, not thin and has nice form on his jumper, although he went 0-3 from three. He's not afraid to move inside but at this point prefers roaming on the perimeter and showed some toughness when the ball was swatted away from him and he crashed to the floor to recover it. Ray Hall played only four minutes and truthfully, this was not a game made for his style of play. Bentley was too small and quick for him to guard and he had trouble – as did all the Friars – closing out on the Falcon's shooters. Finally, Brice Kofane played five minutes and looked athletic but clearly has no offensive skills at this point and it takes some imagination to see him getting minutes this season.

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