Busy Week Begins With A Thrashing

There's light at the end of the tunnel for Ed Cooley and the Providence basketball team. Two more games await the Friars this week to close the first semester in what has been a hectic, entertaining ride so far. PC opened the week by dominating Brown University, 80-49.

PC's cross-town rivals stood no chance as Providence roared out to 15-2 lead and led 34-19 by halftime. Vincent Council thoroughly controlled play as he sped past Brown defenders en route to 15 first half points. "When we saw that Brown had beaten URI (65-56), that got our attention and we really focused in practice," said Council.

In the second half, it was more of the same as LaDontae Henton (19 points) and Bryce Cotton (19 points) heated up. Brown was never able to cut the deficit and the Friars moved out to a 80-39 lead before clearing the bench with two minutes to play. Council missed a rare triple-double by one rebound as he finished with 21 points and 11 assists. It was the first time that PC held its opponent to less than 50 points since Nov. 27, 2007, when the Friars beat Maine, 78-48, in Tim Welsh's last year.

The improvement in the Friars since the season began is startling. Defensively, PC played perhaps it's best game of the season against Brown, holding the Bears to 29% shooting and shackling the tough backcourt of Sean McGonagill and Matt Sullivan. McGonagill had controlled the game against URI, and Council took the challenge personally.

Henton continues to be a major find. "His weight loss is the big key," said Ed Cooley. "He's lost 20-25 pounds. He's able to get off the floor more easily. He finally put the Twinkies down." Gerard Coleman has vastly improved his play and is eschewing the outside shot for drives to the basket. Coleman is also contributing on the boards and is beginning to develop very nicely.

Finally, Cotton remains one of Cooley's biggest frustrations. But in a good way. "He's such a quiet young man," said Cooley. "I want him to shoot more. Sometimes he'll say to me, ‘Coach, do you want me to shoot?' Yes, Bryce… please…please…" One of the more amusing moments against Brown came early in the second half, when Cotton upfaked with the ball and pulled it back down. Cooley whirled in disgust to the bench, figuring that Cotton had passed up another shot, and as he was turned, Cotton let fly with a three pointer. As Cooley turned back to the court, the ball was passing through the net.

On Thursday, the Friars host 2-6 Boston College. The Eagles may be the worst team in the ACC this season. Boasting wins over New Hampshire and UC Riverside in overtime, BC has struggled mightily and has fallen to Holy Cross by 22, Massachusetts by 35, St. Louis by 11, New Mexico by 18, Penn State by 8 and most recently, to cross-town foe Boston University by 14, 75-61.

When Boston College decided to replace Al Skinner as coach, they grabbed Steve Donahue, who had completed a couple of sensational seasons at Cornell. Since then, BC has moved into a period of transition, one that has seen the Eagles slip record-wise. With a number of talented freshmen on the roster, it's too early to judge Donahue, but clearly the BC administration underestimated Skinner.

All Al Skinner did was win. He wasn't exciting, he wasn't flashy, he didn't bring in McDonald's All-American recruits, but he consistently won. He didn't win big enough at the University of Rhode Island, and they grew tired of waiting for something ‘more', so they allowed him to walk to Boston College. And they tired of him at BC because he didn't advance far enough in the NCAA Tournament. So they decided to replace him. But while you may get something different, you don't always get something better. And so far, this certainly isn't better.

BC is led by freshman point guard Patrick Heckmann, who averages 11.1 ppg and junior guard Matt Humphrey, who averages 11.0 ppg. Meanwhile, freshman seven-foot center Dennis Clifford has put up 7.4 ppg and 5.3 rpg. But BC, in eight games, has no one with over 15 assists on the season, averages only 58 ppg, gives up 71 and shoots poorly from everywhere on the court.

The Friars wrap up their busy week with a Saturday Dunk contest against Bryant University. The Bulldogs are another team struggling to find an identity early in the season. Bryant is 1-7 and will play Yale Wednesday night before taking on PC. The ‘Dogs beat UC Davis, but have lost to San Diego State by 12, Southern Utah by 17, Dartmouth by 6, Army by 4, Notre Dame by 25, Central Connecticut by 32 and Quinnipiac by 11. Already, Bryant is 0-2 in the NEC.

Tim O'Shea was hired to help transition Bryant to Division I basketball, and O'Shea is finding the transition to be more difficult than anticipated. Wins have been scarce and difficult to come by, and recruiting to the Smithfield, R.I. campus has yet to yield that first big program-changer. Until O'Shea gets lucky on the recruiting trail and consistently nabs players above their level, look for more of the same.

Defense has been a problem for the Bulldogs, having been outrebounded by 6 per game and having allowed 77 ppg. Bryant can shoot the ball but has trouble stopping anyone. Three players average double figures, led by 6'6 sophomore forward Alex Francis, at 18.9 ppg and 8.0 rpg. He's followed by sophomore guard Corey Maynard and junior point guard Frank Dobbs, each at 13.4 ppg.

After Saturday, the Friars can buckle down in the classroom, get some much needed rest and get their finals out of the way. Following the ten day exam break, PC will return with just two more nonconference games, against New Hampshire and Rhode Island, before diving into the Big East schedule. The light at the end of the tunnel may be in sight, but that light is an oncoming train named the Big East.

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