Thoughts from the Road: All-Time Classic Game for Friars and Rams

This Thoughts from the Road: Couch Edition is brought to you from the insanely comfortable — and hard to get up from — couch at the Smerkers’. It is also fueled by trips to Anthony’s and East Side Pocket and Mollie’s buffalo chicken mac and cheese.

  • Ed Cooley was doing his best troll job by using coachspeak to call this matchup against Providence’s most-played opponent all-time a business trip and not a rivalry game. Cooley’s comments added a little fuel to the fire this year to a game that lost a bit of it’s luster when E.C. Matthews tore his ACL in URI’s season opener. The game certainly lived up to whatever hype there was and is garnering lots of national attention for how exciting it was and for the dramatic fashion in which the Friars won the game.

  • Speaking of getting national attention, Ben Bentil is starting to get recognized for his streak of 20-point scoring games. It certainly helps that he extended that streak in this game and got the game-winning tip-in as time expired. His 23 points were 1 short of the career-high he established at the beginning of this now five game streak. Early season speculation was that Rodney Bullock would be Kris Dunn’s robin this season but Bentil has proven that he can take on that role and even be batman for stretches while Dunn is struggling.

  • Junior Lomomba has been an unsung hero for Providence. Many fans discussed his scholarship opening after this season as a guarantee, assuming the redshirt junior would get his degree in May and then be told to pursue a graduate degree elsewhere. Not so fast. Lomomba has been much improved this season and is beginning to show signs of a blossoming confidence on the offensive end of the floor. He made plays in the post — both scoring and passing — and finished on the break against a defender. Those are things I’m not sure anyone would have believed at the beginning of the season would be associated with Lomomba. Kudos to the Canadian for being on campus all summer and working hard with God Shammgod. Lomomba also can add another scalp to his wall after shutting down URI’s leading scorer in Four McGlynn. McGlynn came in shooting 44.4% from beyond the arc and finished the night 0/8 from the field, including 0/6 from 3-point range.

  • It isn’t every game that Kris Dunn won’t get top 2 billing in this post but in gathering my thoughts from Saturday night’s game I found myself thinking less about Dunn than in other contests. Sure he made some key plays, as he is known to do, but he also had 6 turnovers — some of them hearkening me back to silly plays he made a season ago — and took too many jumpshots for my liking. This Providence team is going to be better than I and many expected this season and Dunn is a big reason for that — he has been living up to the hype. But if not for the play of his teammates — notably Bentil of late — this team has a couple more losses on their ledger.

  • Rodney Bullock made some key plays in this game and was also able to continue playing even with some foul trouble. Bullock logged 34 minutes, scored 16 points and did a solid job guarding Kuran Iverson, who was coming into Saturday’s game off a 19 point, 10 rebound showing in URI’s last game.
  • I’m not sure Cooley wants all 5 of his starts playing more than 30 minutes but he clearly was leaning on the players he trusts in a tight road game. The only other Friar to play double-digit minutes was Jalen Lindsey (12). Kyron Cartwright played just 7 minutes off the bench and freshmen Quadree Smith (5) and Drew Edwards (3) saw limited minutes.
  • The entire course of the game seemed to change during a stretch when Cooley had Dunn, Bentil and Bullock on the bench. It appeared he was trying to extend their rest until the under-8 media timeout. Two made free throws by Bent Bentil extended Providence’s lead to 17-8 with 13:56 remaining in the first half. Cooley had subbed Bullock out on the prior possession and Bentil would be subbed out at the 13:38 mark. Dunn went to the bench with 12:35 remaining and the lineup on the floor was then Cartwright, Lomomba, Fazekas, Lindsey and Smith. The Friar lead would be extended to 9 after a URI turnover and a Cartwright made jumper. We’re now at the 12:10 mark. Providence played zone with that lineup on the floor. URI got the ball to the middle and Iverson dumped off a pass to Earl Watson for a dunk. Next possession. URI offensive rebound after a missed wide open 3-pointer gets swung around to a wide open Christion Thompson at the top of the key. He did not call backboard but it counted. Lead down to 6 with 11:13 left. Cooley had already summoned Dunn, Bentil and Bullock to the scorer’s table awaiting the next whistle at this point. The only points Providence would score during this stretch cam next when Lindsey tipped in a Smith miss after a Cartwright forced jumper. That was basically the offense — Lomomba, Cartwright and Lindsey shooting semi-contested jumpers. Not a recipe for success. Dunn, Bentil and Bullock would languish on the wrong side of the line at mid-court for another 2:14 of game time, all while this unique lineup of Friars was allowing open looks from 3-point range and at the rim while sitting in a 2-3 zone. By the time Dunn, Bentil and Bullock got back into the game the 11 point lead had evaporated and the Rams were heating up. Thompson went 3/3 from beyond the arc in the game and all were in the first half. Cooley may have created more of a dogfight by opting to keep his studs on the sideline and not using one of his timeouts to get them back in the game sooner to stem the tide and switch back to their bread and butter man-to-man defense. Cooley would finally use his first timeout of the half at the 8:59 mark, but the Rams’ confidence had already grown enough to keep them going. They had picked apart Providence’s zone and the Friars couldn’t generate any offense with their 3 best scorers not on the floor.

Providence vs URI Dunn Bentil Bullock subbing in

You can re-watch the entire game below, courtesy of FriarTV. He also is credited with the highlights provided throughout this post.

Corey Porter also put together an excellent highlight package from the game:

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