Thoughts from the Road: Friars Exorcise St. John’s Demons and Advance to Big East Tournament Semifinals

These thoughts from the road are brought to you via a traffic-filled car ride home on the LIE with a pit stop in Jamaica, Queens…

  • Kris Dunn came ready to play in this game as I expected. Dunn was locked in from the opening tap and he backed up the coaches that voted for him for Big East Player of the Year with his tremendous performance. Dunn was one of three Providence players to record a double-double (17 points and 11 assists in 33 minutes) and scored 7 of Providence’s 9 points to start the game after St. John’s got out to an early 7-0 lead.  If he keeps playing like he did against St. John’s on Thursday the chances of him heading to…you know the rest. As I’ve been saying, just enjoy the ride and we’ll see what happens after the season.

    Courtesy of Fox Sports 1
    Courtesy of Fox Sports 1
  • One of the other players to rack up a double-double was LaDontae Henton. Henton was the game’s high scorer with 20 points on 7/14 field goal shooting. Henton had one of his patented “quiet” 20 point scoring nights where the game just goes on and he puts up numbers along the way. This is something Danny James described in a recent article for Cox Hub. Henton’s 12 rebounds also went a long way towards the Friars complete domination of the glass to the tune of a 49-36 edge. It was a nice bounce back game for Henton after the disappointing outing against Butler on Senior Day.
  • The third and final Friar that had a double-double in Thursday’s game was Ben Bentil. The freshman big man has been somewhat inconsistent but he came up large today with some key plays like converting a wild shot for an and-1 when St. John’s was trying to mount a comeback. If Bentil didn’t mishandle a few Dunn passes he might have scored 20 instead of 13. Bentil’s 13 rebounds was a game and career high. image
  • Tyler Harris continues to play with a senior sense of urgency that manifested during Providence’s Senior Day game on March 7th against Butler. Harris had 17 points in that game and made some tough, hard-nosed defensive plays. On Thursday it was more of the same. Harris finished with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in 36 minutes off the bench. He took a charge, he battled for rebounds down low and he got to the free throw line 8 times, converting on 6 of the attempts. St. John’s had cut the Friar lead to 11 with 13:23 remaining in the game after a Rysheed Jordan 3-pointer. The next two scoring plays that followed are what ended St. John’s hopes of making a run and getting the deficit under 10. Henton scored off a D’Angelo Harrison turnover at 11:05 to put Providence ahead by 13 and then Harris came along with the dagger to finish a battered and bloody Red Storm team off by nailing his only 3-pointer of the afternoon to put Providence up 16. That seemed to really take the wind out of St. John’s sails.
  • Carson Desrosiers had an okay game. He made just one field goal – a top of the key trey – but scored 5 points and grabbed 4 rebounds. Cooley has made it clear that regardless of Desrosiers’ scoring output or any other statistical measure it’s crifical for the Friar offense that Desrosiers is in the game. I have to be a bit critical of the 5th year senior here because he committed two very silly fouls that resulted in him having to sit with 4 fouls at the 14:16 mark of the second half and then less than two minutes after re-entering the game he committed his 5th foul. That disqualifying foul was one you might see from a player with 1 foul because he essentially wrapped Jordan up at the rim and almost intentionally fouled him.
  • Having never previously attended a St. John’s postgame press conference I can’t comment on whether Steve Lavin usually gives such bizarre and puzzling answers to questions. He certainly had a few head scratchers after this game. At one point, while trying to deflect any blame from his players for the fact that this senior class has never won a Big East Tournament game, Lavin jokingly exclaimed that it’s likely his fault that they never won a conference tournament game because he doesn’t think he has “ever won a conference tournament game in the Pac-10 or the Big East, I don’t know if it has anything to do with our players.” He would add, “I don’t think it’s [the team]. I’m just a poor Big East, I’m a poor conference tournament coach. We didn’t have one at UCLA either. … Probably the trend in the racing form is I don’t think I’ve ever won a conference tournament game as a coach in the Pac-10 or the Big East. I don’t think it has anything to do with our players.” As Adam Zagoria would immediately point out after Lavin finished his winding answer, Twitter had proven Lavin wrong. His 2003 UCLA team beat Arizona and more recently his first year at St. John’s they beat Rutgers in 2011. It was an odd thing for a coach with just a year left on his original deal to say and there were certainly some eyebrows raised around the room.
  • Villanova presents a tough test and with little time to prepare it will be interesting to see if Ed Cooley and his staff opt to let Kris Dunn take control and see if he can will the Friars back to the Big East Tournament Championship game for a second-straight year. If the Wildcats shoot 16/26 from 3-point range and assist on 22 of 28 made field goals it won’t matter how well Dunn or any other Friar plays. Cooley mentioned this was one the his worst teams at defending the 3-point line, something he attributed to poor coaching on his part. The Friars better improve that facet if they have any hope of pulling off the upset Friday night at MSG.

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