Thoughts from the Road: Providence Hangs on Against Scrappy Illini

A big shoutout to night road work on 95 South to start off this “Thoughts from the Road”. Gave me a little extra time to think last night….

  • What a finish! John Groce said the game reminded him of a league game and I would agree that it had that gritty, back and forth feel.

  • Kris Dunn obviously struggled to get going offensively with Illinois trying to suffocate him plus his foul trouble. He definitely was over dribbling and trying to force shots at times. But when it mattered Dunn found a way to contribute massively to his team by playing lockdown defense. Ed Cooley switched out of the zone they had been sitting in most of the night and went to man to man for the last 6 or so minutes and Dunn shined. He was all over the court deflecting passes and suffocating ball handlers. Cooley said he felt the rest of the team played off Dunn’s defensive intensity and they ratcheted up their own effort down the stretch. Dunn will have more of these nights when he isn’t scoring 32 points so it was nice to see other guys step up and pick up the scoring load.
  • Ben Bentil is the guy who did most of that heavy lifting, both scoring and rebounding. Coming into this game the narrative was that Bentil might struggle to deal with Illinois big man Mike Thorne, Jr. but that never really materialized. Thorne was in foul trouble most of the night and didn’t score in 13 minutes of action. He fouled out with 5:13 to go in the game. Bentil took way too many 3-pointers (2/7) and looked to be rushing a bit, especially early in the game at the rim. Once he settled down he was big-time. 8 of his 12 rebounds were offensive and he played solid defense at the rim. His 18 points led the way for the Friars and they needed every single one. Bentil’s double-double was his first of the season and sixth of his career. He didn’t get his first double-double last season until early February.
  • Kyron Cartwright played well and was a big reason the Friars took a 2-point lead into the locker room at halftime. Cartwright nailed a pair of 3-pointers and also had a nice slash to the rim for his 8 points. He scored all 8 point in that first half and only attempted 1 shot in the entire second half from the field — a late-clock 3-pointer with 46 seconds left in the game with the score tied at 59. He did miss a pair of free throws 25 seconds later but if you look closely at the replay of the furious final seconds of the game it was Cartwright who got up and bothered Mike Finke just enough to cause the big man to miss that dunk.
  • Cooley gave a shoutout to Drew Edwards in the postgame, saying that he thought the young man’s effort was excellent even though he had all zeroes on the box score. Another freshman that I was impressed with was Ryan Fazekas. Fazekas got the start for the second straight game and played well in 21 minutes of action. Nothing on his box score stands out as spectacular but he made some gritty plays on rebounds, tips and steals that you might not see from a freshman in his second career game. He was 0/2 from beyond the arc but clearly has a high basketball IQ. 
  • Jalen Lindsey returned to the lineup and made his season debut off the bench after not dressing for the season opener due to a violation of team policy. Lindsey had an okay game overall but was critical down the stretch after the Friars went man to man. He did an excellent job sticking with shooters on the perimeter and staying in front of dribblers. His value right now is really as a “3 and D” player. He had the D part down against Illinois but he was 0/3 from 3.
  • The free throw shooting was abysmal by the Friars. They got to the line 12 more times than Illinois (18 to 6) but missed 10 of their attempts, including a pair of front ends of 1 and 1’s. Providence wins this game somewhat comfortably — at least close to covering — if they shoot just 70% — their team FT% last season — on their attempts instead of the 44.4% they shot.

All vines courtesy of The Morning Hangover and Terrence Payne.

You can re-watch the game below, courtesy of FriarTV:

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