This Thoughts from the Road: Couch Edition is brought to you by the 5J Christmas party and is powered by the deep reflection during an all-Latin Christmas concert at the Cloisters. Special shoutout to my dad because Joe R said so.
- Ben Bentil did his best Willis Reed impression, albeit in a less grand manner. Bentil being available in the first place made it clear the ankle injury he suffered on Wednesday against Boston College was, as it looked on TV, a standard basketball ankle roll. The fact that he was able to put on his cape with 5:15 left in the first half with his team trailing 2-8 Bryant by 9 means he would have started this game if Ed Cooley needed him to. Since he went on to play the final 5:15 of the first half and the beginning 19:43 of the second half, Bentil showed he is a tough dude. The other thing he showed is that he is a true team leader. With Kris Dunn in sweats on the bench due to illness and his young teammates struggling with a team Vegas decided was a 21 point underdog at the line’s open, Bentil’s mere presence in the game was the calming factor that players like Bryce Cotton, LaDontae Henton and Dunn developed into. Bentil only scored 2 points in the first half — a jumper he made right after entering the game — but it was clear the tide was turning back in Providence’s favor. The Friars finished that 5:15 stretch on a 9-4 run to close the half down just 4 points after being down by 11 — Bryant’s largest lead of the game — with 5:39 left.
- The second half was a combination of Bentil scoring the ball and freshman Drew Edwards breaking through in his first extended action of his college career. Bentil scored 13 second half points and made critical plays but the game turned totally in Providence’s favor once Edwards starting feeling it from downtown. Edwards came into this Bryant game averaging 1.1 points/game and 7.25 minutes/game — the latter stat slightly spiked by his previous career high of 19 minutes against Boston College on Wednesday — and he was getting some good looks from beyond the arc that simply weren’t going down. Once that first one dropped with 15:05 left in the game, Edwards was off to the races. He would finished the game 5/9 from deep after starting 0/2 during 12 first half minutes. From 15:05 — when Edwards sunk his first triple — to 5:58 left in the game, either Edwards or Bentil were the only Friars to score any points — 25 between them during that stretch — save for a single made free throw by Rodney Bullock. Providence’s lead extended to 12 during that span. Edwards still made some mistakes — he is a freshman, after all — but his hot shooting was a big reason why Providence was able to survive against Bryant and avoid an RPI-killing loss.
- Aside from Dunn having some illness, reports came out after the game that both Bullock and Kyron Cartwright were also under the weather. Bullock had a gritty effort and his third career double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Bullock certainly got better once Bentil entered the mix and part of that is because it allowed Bullock to slide back to the 4 position where he has spent almost every minute this season for Cooley. Cartwright didn’t have a great game but played 22 minutes with 0 turnovers. For someone getting his first start of the season and dealing with an illness, I’d say Cartwright did pretty well.
- Another player thrust into the starting lineup for this game because of another player’s illness was Jalen Lindsey. Lindsey also started Wednesday night because Ryan Fazekas has mono and mono means Lindsey will continue to be a starter for the next few weeks, most likely. On the whole, I thought Lindsey played well. He had open looks from 3-point range that weren’t falling — he started the game 0/5 from downtown — but was active on the glass and kept shooting until he made a pair of triples. The 2/9 number looks ugly but Lindsey — and others — will have to try to make up for the lack of a court-stretching shooting threat while Fazekas is on the mend.
- Cooley played 10 different Friars on Saturday, including walk-on Tom Planek. Freshman Quadree Smith started the game, fellow freshman Ricky Council saw his first action since his 9 minutes against Hartford on December 2nd and Tyree Chambers made a quick appearance — and naturally picked up a foul. This was a real team effort for Cooley’s squad as they tried to limp into the final exam break on a positive note. Squeaking out a not-so-pretty win against now 2-9 Bryant gets them to 10-1 on the season with 2 more non-conference games before Big East play begins at Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve.
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