Thoughts from the Road: Friars Defend Home Court, Sweep Butler

This Thoughts from the Road: Home Command Center Edition is brought to you by Jamie Luckie’s whistles and is fueled by Gatorade and some Pepperidge Farms Goldfish.

  • This game was a Big East battle. Not exactly a “classic” Big East battle in the sense that the stops weren’t as frequent as they would have been in the slug it out Big East. But I would argue this is the new kind of classic. A game where the lead see-saws back and forth and big time players make big time plays. The last 10 minutes of game action had the Dunk rocking and each team’s key players rose to the occasion at different times. Roosevelt ones made a layup at the 12:54 mark to put Butler up by 6 — the largest lead of the game by either team. From there, Providence went on an 8-0 run and the final 11:22 featured 4 ties and 5 lead changes. Ben Bentil scored 8 of Providence’s 21 points in the final 12 minutes, Dunn handed out some key assists and banked in the game-winning 3-pointer and Kellen Dunham and Jones were heavily involved in Butler’s side of things. In short, it was a fun game to watch, despite all the whistles.

  • Dunn arguably played his worst game of the season. He started pretty solidly with an early basket and 5 first half assists. His, now too often bugaboo, was foul trouble. Dunn picked up his second foul with 6:35 left in the first half and was then relegated to popping on and off the Friar bench as offense or defense situations would arise. Dunn went out at 6:35 right after getting whistled for the second foul. He the came back in at the 6:19 mark, back out at 6:07, in at 5:20, out at 5:04, in at 4:48, out at 3:55, in at 3:02 and out at 2:31. Dunn still managed 31 minutes for the game, but he was clearly affected by all the starts and stops. Dunn’s game is just as much about his impact on the defensive end as the offensive side of thing. The refs were whistle-happy in this game, but Dunn must not continue to put himself in these situations where he has to sit or be limited because of fouls.

  • Dunn managed to come up large when he was needed and banked in a 3-pointer that would provide Providence with the winning total of 71 points.

  • Ben Bentil continues to get to the free throw line at a solid clip. He shot his percentage last night at 8/10. He also was a warrior for 40 minutes. Bentil’s improvement has been so drastic, but the most impressive thing lately is that he is able to still produce even when he isn’t hitting his outside shot. I really liked Cooley’s thought about going inside to Bentil on the opening possession of the game. The result was a turnover — and I thought Bentil had a mini-stretch of this game where he reverted to his old self and was playing too fast — but the thought was good and I’d like to see the Friars go to Bentil early and often more in games.
  • Rodney Bullock came alive tonight. Bullock had been struggling mightily over the last 3 games. He played ok against St. John’s on January 2nd, but his best game of the season came at Butler on December 31st. While Bullock didn’t go for 25 points and make 6 3-pointers this time against the Bulldogs, Bullock did show more assertiveness and involvement than he has been lately. Bullock led Providence with 8 rebounds and he appeared more willing to participate actively in offense. He wasn’t playing hot potato as much and was crashing the glass hard in search of offensive rebounds and second chance points. Bullock will need to try to keep this little bit of momentum going as the Friars head to Philly to take on #4 Villanova on Saturday.

  • Ryan Fazekas still hasn’t gotten going from the outside since his return from mono. Prior to going out, Fazekas was shooting 47.2% from beyond the arc on 36 attempts. In his 4 games back, Fazekas is just 1/15, including 0/3 against Butler. I strongly believe that Fazekas will get back into a groove because he has a shooter’s mentality and will keep shooting. The thing that has impressed me about Fazekas’ play over the few games is that he doesn’t let the poor shooting impact him in other areas. He still feverishly goes after loose balls and has been active in offensive rebound, either grabbing the ball or tipping it out to a teammate. Those are things you might not expect from a freshman mired in a dreadful shooting slump who lost his starting spot because of a virus. Kudos to Fazekas for continuing to play hard. The shots will fall soon.
  • Drew Edwards had another Drew Edwards-like game. The freshman from Baltimore recently told Peter Gobis of the Attleboro Sun Chronicle that “it was hard to find my spots early in the season, to figure out what I could do for the team. Coach wants to me attack right from the beginning, play with a lot of energy – I do the little things; I’m really good at those. I know my role.” He certainly does know his role. Edwards plays with a level of grit not normally administered by a freshman. Similar to Fazekas, he isn’t fazed if his shot isn’t falling — he rattled out a pair of open 3-pointers. He managed 3 points, but the key stats for Edwards aren’t necessarily in the box score. He has earned his role in this rotation as a key piece for Cooley’s 2015-16 Friar squad and the future is bright for Edwards.
  • Jalen Lindsey continues to struggle from the outside. Lindsey went 0/2 and both attempts came at times when a make would have erupted the Dunk crowd into a veritable frenzy to cap off a stretch where Providence had gathered momentum on their side. Lindsey did contribute 5 rebounds in 19 minutes, but he appears to be lacking the confidence that Fazekas exudes.
  • Kellen Dunham is certainly not slumping anymore. The Butler leading scorer made 7 field goals in the game and 6 were from beyond the arc. He also played all 40 minutes for Chris Holtmann.
  • Roosevelt Jones plays ugly and it works. He quietly amassed 16 points on 6/8 shooting and dished out 5 assists. Having watched a number of Butler’s other games not against the Friars this season, I knew crunch time would mean the ball would be in Jones’ hands. Bentil also appeared to know and took a key charge on a driving Jones with 14 seconds left that should have resulted in free throws to salt the win away instead of a corner turnover on the ensuing in-bounds pass that resulted in Butler’s furious attempt to tie the game with a 3-pointer.
  • Many people were confused during and after the game as to why Dunn didn’t go to the free throw line after a Jones foul at the 7:40 mark of the second half that was Butler’s 9th team foul. The explanation — courtesy of Rich Coren who sits at the scorer’s table — was that the ref called Jones for a player possession foul and the rule is that there are no shots on a player possession foul. I happen to not agree with the ref’s assessment, but it at least explains, in some way, why Dunn didn’t head to the line for a 1 and 1.
  • Quadree Smith has warmed up with the team the last few games. I was in attendance for the Seton Hall game and watched Smith closely as he dunk the ball and put up jumpers without any evident pain or pause. He had a wrap on his hand for that game and had it on again for the Butler game, but it is a far cry from the cast he was previously sporting. It makes me think that Smith may be back and was even available last night. He didn’t play against Butler last time either, so him not playing last night may have been due to matchups moreso than the hand injury. Providence will go up against Daniel Ochefu on Saturday in Philadelphia and may need Smith’s beefy size and fouls against the Villanova big man. We’ll see if he’s truly back and available.

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6 thoughts on “Thoughts from the Road: Friars Defend Home Court, Sweep Butler”

  1. Very exciting game in Providence last night. A lot of fouls called. Wish they let the young men play more instead of all these stops in play. Kills the flow on the game IMO.

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