Providence entered the exhibition game fully aware that there were a number of questions that needed answering. That’s usually the case when you have such a young team. Of the team’s 11 scholarship players, six were either seeing their first ever action or had played very little last season.
The good news is that the Friars put 92 points on the scoreboard. The bad news is that they gave up 76, 40 in the first half, to DII Stonehill. Although this was an experienced Stonehill team, with four of five starters returning from a 19-10 squad, nobody stood taller than 6’7. In that regard, though, PC wasn’t much bigger.
Stonehill gave PC fits with their outside shooting right from the start and held a 14-9 lead after a three pointer by Adam Bramanti. The visitor’s last lead came with nine minutes to play as a Pierce Cumpstone three put them ahead 22-20, but Ben Bentil answered with a layup and Jalen Lindsey hit a free throw to give PC it’s first lead with just over eight minutes to play. Although the Friars stretched their lead to 29-22 on a Ryan Fazekas three, PC couldn’t pull away. Rodney Bullock dominated the first half and layed in a Kris Dunn miss at the buzzer for a 50-40 halftime lead.
A layup by Dunn pushed PC’s lead to 59-44 but Stonehill wasn’t finished. With 10:17 to play, Jimmy Walsh converted a traditional three-point play to cut PC’s lead to single digits, and after a Bullock free throw, Stuart McEwen nailed a three pointer. Dunn then missed a layup and Stonehill raced downcourt for another three by Bramanti and PC was up, 65-62 with 8:24 to go.
Two consecutive layups by Bentil gave the home team some breathing room, but the Friars would not see their double digit lead restored until Dunn raced through for a layup to make it 78-68 with just over four minutes to play. From there, PC wasn’t threatened as Stonehill ran out of gas and the Friars ended the game on a 27-14 run.
THE GO-TO GUYS: It’s apparent that, right now, PC has three go-to players. Kris Dunn, a preseason national player of the year candidate, has the ability to absolutely take over games. In this one, he poured in 15 points and added 12 assists and 3 steals in 27 minutes. What we didn’t see was Dunn’s jump shot. He attempted (and missed) just one three pointer, shot 6-11 and scored most of his points on drives into the lane for layups. Dunn also harassed Stonehill’s point guard at will and generally made life miserable for the enemy. Because PC was struggling, he probably played a few more minutes than Ed Cooley would have liked, although it proved to be necessary.
Player of the game for the Friars was undoubtedly Rodney Bullock. The redshirt sophomore poured in 26 points, 18 in the first half, on efficient 10-14 shooting and added 11 rebounds in 30 minutes. Bullock is extremely active, positions well and uses his long arms to great advantage. He also has an incredible nose for the ball. Even given the level of competition, it was apparent that he will be a player. He scored in a variety of ways, on step-back jumpers, three pointers and layups and spin moves around the basket. His game reminded this viewer of Eric Williams as a Friar.
Ben Bentil also added 15 points on 6-7 shooting, along with 7 rebounds in 28 minutes. Bentil struggled in the first half, as the active interior players for Stonehill, Ryan Logan, Walsh and Cumpstone repeatedly poked the ball away from him as he would make his move down low, but he asserted himself inside when PC needed it in the second half.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: Of the freshmen, Ryan Fazekas played 12 minutes and scored 10 points on 4-9 shooting, including 2-7 from three. Fazekas is a little behind because of missed practices due to a hand injury, but he moves well and showed no hesitation in launching his shot. In fact, despite the heights listed on PC’s roster, Fazekas may be the tallest player on the team.
Drew Edwards looked solid with 7 points in 15 minutes, and 3-4 shooting. He needs to get a bit stronger but showed confidence in drives to the basket and also recorded two steals. Ricky Council played 12 minutes and scored 4 points. He’s built solidly and also has a solid outside shot, although he missed his only three-point attempt. The refs whistled a couple of quick fouls on Quadree Smith, who played 11 minutes and scored 4 points, along with 3 rebounds, but he’s the type of player who, because of his size, will often get anticipation or offensive fouls called on him. He did show a soft touch at the free throw line for a big man.
TO BE IMPROVED UPON: PC’s perimeter defense was missing in action. Stonehill attempted 31 threes and hit 12 and many of their misses were wide open. As long as Stonehill was hitting those threes, they stayed in the game. As soon as they tired and started missing open threes late in the game, PC seized control. The perimeter D must be worked on.
PC outrebounded Stonehill 45-35, but too often players leaked inside for rebounds to keep possessions alive. Cumpstone scored 14 points and had 14 rebounds, 8 offensive.
Although PC shot 54% for the game, the Friars attempted just 19 threes and hit 6. Cooley wanted more threes, although to be fair, a number were good looks that just missed. With Dunn, Fazekas, Edwards, Council, Lindsey and Tyree Chambers, the Friars have a lot of three-point shooters who can be very effective, but they need more shots.
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CLOSING POINTS: Cooley wants transition basketball and to play fast, but PC scored zero fast break points in this game… Stonehill’s bench outscored PC’s bench, 33-29… Thirteen Friars saw action, and that will be cut going forward… The two sophomores who saw significant action were largely ineffective. Kyron Cartwright played 18 minutes and scored 4 points but forced a few shots and over-dribbled at times, while Lindsey played 19 minutes and was scoreless, missing three shots, including two back-to-back threes… The Friars will play a closed scrimmage next and then open the season against Harvard at home on November 14.