Friars Feast on Florida A&M

The Florida A&M Rattlers lived up to their name, as they did their best impression of the ‘Gang that couldn't shoot straight'. The Friars took advantage of their opponents 33% shooting, taking an early lead and never looking back as they rolled to 87-65 victory in the first game of the South Padre Invitational.

Usually there is not a wealth of information to be gained from a lopsided victory. However, when you have a first year coach who is attempting to install a new system of play and a new culture of competitiveness, there is plenty of value in a win like Saturday's against Florida A&M.

Providence is still playing without Kadeem Batts and Kiwi Gardner, and can only roll out eight scholarship players, so for Coach Ed Cooley, every win is to be savored.

"I love, love, love playing at home," Cooley said. "There's no greater place in America to play than the Dunk."

Cooley should feel that way, as the Friars are undefeated to start the season, and home games have in large part provided great opportunities to improve a team that has no depth, only one consistent three point threat, and a front court rotation that currently lacks scoring punch and gives up too many second chance put backs on defense. The Friars are 3-0, but still have miles of room for improvement.

There is plenty of positive to see right now too though, and a few things jumped out in the Florida A&M contest that should help Ed Cooley continue to improve his team. Bryce Cotton has emerged as the #1 scoring option – With Marshon Brooks moving on to the NBA, there were big question marks about who would lead the Friar offense this season. Amazingly, Bryce Cotton has seamlessly embraced that role. He has been special in nearly every game, and put up a career high 26 points in the Florida A&M win. Cotton is playing big minutes, starting a shooting guard, filling in at the point, knocking down the 3 point shot consistently, and scoring key baskets when the team needs it.

"He's someone who really worked on his game over the summertime," said Friars coach Ed Cooley, "I couldn't be more pleased."

Vincent Council appears relatively healthy – After being reported out as questionable during the week coming off an ankle injury at Fairfield, Council started against Florida A&M and while not as sharp as he was in the win over the Stags, the Friars only true point guard right now looked solid with 13 points, 9 assists, and only 3 turnovers.

Ladonte Henton is seeing Double – The freshman from Michigan took a little while to get acclimated to the college game, but Henton is a Gilbert Brown type of forward who does a little bit of everything to help his team win. Henton recorded 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Friars, marking his first double-double as a Friar. Ed Cooley wants the freshman to lead the team in rebounding, and is counting on his freshman to grow up fast. Players like Henton and Brice Kofane epitomize the new found hard working ethic that Friar fans are seeing on the court.

"He's (Henton) like a junkyard dog," Cooley said. "He's a multi-positional player. We're asking him to do a lot for a puppy."

Finally, if your team isn't shooting many three point shots, you've got to get 3 point plays the old fashioned way, and that means at the foul line. One area of concern that reared its ugly head again was the inability of the Friars to knock down free throw shots. After markedly improving at the charity stripe against Fairfield, the Friars slipped back into the unacceptable range with a paltry free throw percentage of 63% against Florida A&M. That number must improve and consistently be better than 70% if the Friars are going to expect to beat many quality opponents this season.

The Friars have a quick turnaround on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m., when they take on Southern University in the next round of the South Padre Island Invitational. This is their last game before heading out on their first real road trip of the year and a significant upgrade in competition.

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