Beating Dartmouth for their first win of the year was not considered a tall order for a Big East team like Providence. Dartmouth is expected to finish at the bottom of the Ivy League, and anything short of a blowout would have been of concern. The Big Green lack size, depth, and players who can knock down the outside shot so it was no surprise that the Friars jumped out to a 15-3 lead 8 minutes into the first half. Providence used their three quarter court press for a good portion of the game, and grabbed 6 steals in the first half, 10 for the game. While the Providence press produced some easy offense, it really was Dartmouth's inability to make shots all game (25% fg shooting) that fueled the transition game for the Friars. Providence beat Dartmouth in fast break points 20-2 as well as in half court production. Much of that scoring was attributed to some quality play making from a young but dynamic back court.
The trio of Vincent Council, Gerard Coleman, and Bryce Cotton combined for 50 of the Friars 87 total points for the game. That makes for a very impressive season debut when two of those three players are freshman. Coleman has been a highly regarded recruit from day one, but his 17 point debut proved to be a Providence record for a freshman. The less known Cotton wasn't far behind, as he scored 15 points of his own to go along with 3 assists and three steals. Despite an impressive introduction by the two freshman guards, the young Friars appeared more focused on team goals than individual numbers.
"I think we still need to work out some of the kinks on defense, and the offense has to get run a little bit better than we did tonight" said Cotton. "As a team, though, I think Coach was happy overall with our performance tonight, but he wants us to quickly refocus again because we have games still to play this week."
As for Vincent Council, much is expected from the sophomore this year, who played well beyond his years as a freshman last season and made the Big East All Rookie Team. He is clearly the floor general this year, and led the way for the Friars on the scoreboard with 18 points and five assists, despite still recovering from some preseason knee pain. Council is aware of the inexperienced players around him who are looking for his leadership and ball handling on the court, but he spoke about his growing confidence in his new teammates.
"They (the freshmen) are learning quick, and I thought they played well today", said Council. "They will improve game after game, and they've shown they are willing to listen to make the team better."
The front court was a little quieter in this one, although starting center Bilal Dixon pulled down 11 rebounds and freshman Ron Giplaye grabbed 7 himself, in only 11 minutes of play. Senior Marshon Brooks struggled with his shot in the first half and was held scoreless, but he still managed to finish with 13 points in only 22 minutes of play. More importantly, Brooks is making a conscious effort to be a more complete player this year, rather than just a scorer. He quietly filled up his stat sheet in ways fans have typically not seen in the past. Brooks' line ended with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, and a block. That clearly is a step in the right direction for a player looking to earn a paycheck playing the game next year. Brooks' only major miscues came with handling the ball, where he coughed it up 4 times, often at the hands of a double team from Dartmouth. The Friars as a team had too many turnovers in this game with 20 overall. Those kinds of ball handling miscues will prove far mostly costly against better opponents. As Brooks continues to draw more attention from opponents, the Friars will need to set some screens for him to get more open looks at the basket.
There was little doubt Providence was bound to win this game going away, but it was a crowd pleasing opening night win, and the first chance to see the Friars playing for keeps from start to finish. The 87-52 final score made for a lot of garbage time, but Keno Davis views it as building toward something that hopefully is can do some special things later in the season.
"We've got to get better by Monday. We've got to be better by next week" said Davis. "We're not good enough now to be an upper division team in the Big East. Can we be one by January? I don't know, but I know this team that I've got right now is going to work as hard as it can to be one, and that's what both fans and coaches really appreciate."
Providence faces Yale in their second game of the season on Monday evening at 7pm at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
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