FAST BREAK: BRYANT

A Vincent Council-less Friar squad took the floor Monday night against cross-state foes Bryant University. With only seven players available to play Providence College would have to rely on roster management, foul evasion, and well executed plays on both ends of the floor in order to win against this recent DI team. However, Ed Cooley's Friars impressed, sealing an 81-49 victory over the Bulldogs.

Kadeem Batts' Rising: Kadeem Batts was the leading scorer for the Friars with 27 points. However, Batts ability to seal those 27 was what left many impressed. On 12 of 15 shooting (good for 80%) Batts would post up, step out, and move in to convert baskets and, on occasion, draw a foul in the process. His 3-5 shooting from the charity stripe was satisfactory, and he fell just shy of a double double, pulling down nine boards. "Kadeem definitely set the pace for us," Cooley would acknowledge in his postgame comments.

• Follow the Leaders: With Council on the bench for what is likely to be the next 6-8 weeks, the team is losing more than just a point guard who leads in assists – they're losing leadership. After the NJIT game the concern was "who would emerge as the leader" for this team. However, it appears as though there is no one designated leader. Kadeem Batts, Bryce Cotton, and LaDontae Henton are all being referred to as leaders by the coaching staff.

This is reflective of the team's performance, demonstrating their trust in sharing the basketball and creating for each other on offense, while playing tight defense and showing excellent communication on screens and passes. The shooting percentages on both end attest to this – Providence shot 57% for the game (including 63% at the half) while Bryant only shot 30% for the game, including 19% from three point land compared to the Friars' 53%. With this "one for all, all for one" mentality these three leaders are demonstrating these numbers are not a fluke or the result of a lucky performance.

• Fortune-ate: Josh Fortune, often described as an under-the-radar shooter, found confidence late in the second half of the game. After going 0-3 in the first half, Fortune landed a layup that seemed to spark confidence in his game. He would go on to hit a three and another shot from the inside to finish out with seven points. His demeanor after his initial layup changed completely. He suddenly moved with much more control, looked more confident handling the ball and taking a shot, and was able to help create an offensive flow rather than disrupt one. More revealing than his scoring numbers, however, is his assists – finishing with six assists for the game he tied with Bryce Cotton for leading assists and also showed that once he gets his confidence he's going to be a completely different player.

• Cotton in Control: Bryce Cotton's work ethic is not one that can be overlooked. He's seen in the gym at all hours of the day working on his shot and getting himself physically and mentally prepared to step up to any challenge. During Providence College media day he acknowledged he would have to play the point for some periods, but nobody fathomed it would be under these circumstances. Nonetheless, Cotton acknowledged he would do whatever his team needed of him, and when that meant preparing to take over point guard responsibilities Cotton got right to work after the NJIT game. His preparation showed positive strides in the Bryant game – he finished with a double double (24 points and 11 rebounds), six assists, and 4-7 shooting from beyond the arc, all while playing a full 40 minutes. Cotton looked more composed, and his performance both in the stat line and on the floor is reflective of his work ethic and attitude.

• Four of Seven: Of the "sexy seven" as they're referred to by Coach, four have had highlight performances – Cotton, Batts, Fortune, and LaDontae Henton. The remaining three – Brice Kofane, Lee Goldsbrough, and walk on Ted Bancroft – are all still struggling to find their footing and help on this team. Bancroft's situation can easily be chalked up to his walk on status. Goldbrough has needed a confidence boost, and like a father throwing his child into the pool to teach him to swim, Ed Cooley's solution was to start the international player and play him for a total of 20 minutes.

During that time Goldbrough did not score and couldn't get into a good rhythm with four fouls, but he did grab eight rebounds for the Friars. Additionally, he began to show flares of confidence both in sizing up his man on defense and taking shots on offense (though it was only one, this is the first time Goldsbrough has attempted a field goal within the past two games). Brice Kofane has the length and height to be a defensive nightmare for players, and with three blocks he showed flares of that, but his offense leads much to be desired despite going 2-2 from the field. While Kofane and Goldsbrough continue to make what strives they can, it must be on the rest of the Friars to help assimilate them into the flow of the game and find ways to get them to be productive.

• Protect the Ball: Turnovers plagued the Friars in the second half early on, and although the Friars had entered halftime with 6, they finished with 15 turnovers for the game. For teams like upcoming-opponent UMass this will destroy the Friars. Protecting the ball is key, not only on the handle but off the shot as well. Too often were the Friars making careless passes or half-hearted shots, only to find themselves chasing Bulldogs down the other end of the floor and hoping for a botched layup or hesitation to bail Providence out from their mistakes. They were fortunate with the Bulldogs and NJIT to an extent, but with a UMass team who can make a living off these mistakes, it's a must-fix before the team tips off in Puerto Rico on Thursday.

Rich's Notes:
• Can he coach? I'm beginning to have my doubts about Tim O'Shea. That was not a well-coached game against the Friars, and I haven't seen a lot of improvement in the Bryant squad. Against a paper-thin Friar roster, Bryant opted not to press until the game was out of hand in the second half. Likewise, rather than challenging PC inside and attempting to get Providence in foul trouble, the Bulldogs were mostly content to chuck up mostly errant three point attempts. Star Alex Francis barely touched the ball in the second half after getting to the free throw line 9 times in the first half. This is a team that just does not appear to be progressing. Contrast that to a vulnerable, deeply flawed Friar team that played beautiful team ball last night and coaching does make a difference.

• Player of the game: Who else but Kadeem Batts? Batts played with a chip on his shoulder, played with fire and scored 23 first half points and 27 overall with 9 rebounds. He also defended well. Providence needs this from Batts on a consistent basis.

• Line of the game: Batts was not quite perfect. At one point in the second half, he stayed on the floor after a timeout, giving PC six players on the court. The refs stopped the in-bound play and Batts made his way to the sideline, leaving Cooley to mutter to the broadcast crew, "How does a kid get into Providence College, and he can't count to five?"

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