Friar Basketball

Fortune, Friars Recover from Slow Start to Top RIC


Rapid reaction from Providence’s 76-52 win over Rhode Island College on Saturday night:

1. How the game was won: After slogging their way through a 24 point first half that found them down a point to Division III Rhode Island College, Providence shot 72% from the field en route to 52 second half points.  Vincent Council had 12 points and six assists after the intermission, while Friar freshman Josh Fortune shook off a shaky start (6 turnovers on the night, 1-6 shooting in the first half, including 1-5 from three point range) by catching fire in the closing five minutes to finish with a game-high 22 points.  More on his explosion to come.

2. The turning point: Providence went on a 23-9 run in the opening 10 minutes of the second half to give them a cushy 47-34 advantage.  RIC would get no closer than 13 the rest of the way.

Key to the early run was Council, who scored eight points and assisted on a pair of three point baskets by Fortune and Lee Goldsbrough (8 points, 12 rebounds) in the half’s first six minutes to push PC comfortably ahead.

3. Fortune’s scores on six straight possessions: After playing well in both the Mal Brown Scrimmage and against Assumption last week, Fortune looked every bit a freshman playing under the bright lights for the first time throughout his Dunkin Donuts Center debut.

He missed rather badly throughout his 1-6 start, and turned the ball over on six occasions before putting on an absolute show from outside in the game’s final 4:45.

How good was Fortune over this span?  The Virginia native made  jump shots on six straight Friar possessions from the 4:43 mark until there was 1:20 left, hitting four 3 point field goals and two deep jumpers that were just inside the arc.

He had 16 points in three minutes and twenty two seconds.

Ed Cooley said in the preseason that Fortune would have a game when he makes eight or nine three pointers this year. After a very tough first 30 minutes, his shooting display became the story of an otherwise ugly night.

4. Cotton shelved, Batts banged up: After the game Cooley said junior shooting guard Bryce Cotton was “day to day” with a thumb injury, while Kadeem Batts had missed the past four days of practice due to a shoulder injury.  Cotton did not play Saturday night, while Batts grinded through 12 minutes of action.

5. Notables from Cooley: Some quick hit quotes from Cooley’s post game press conference:

“Obviously, Cotton being out made a big difference.  He has a really bad sprain and we were out of rhythm without him.”

“Josh has to learn what it is to play in the Big East.  I think he’s a talented individual who is getting better, but he’s still got to work on the physical part.  He’s got to work on his defensive approach, but the one thing Josh can really do is shoot the basketball and he’s going to have some big games for us this year.”

“I give Rhode Island College a lot of credit.  They are very well coached, they play hard, they play together, and they are going to be a team that will definitely be reckoned with at that level.  I appreciate them coming over.  It was a great game for us, gave us a challenge that we needed, and we look forward to playing them again.”

“(RIC head coach) Bob (Walsh) and I are really close going back to my days at Boston College.  When I lived here I’d always step in and say hello to Bob, Timmy (Welsh) and Steve Demeo.  He and I have remained close.  I look at him as a brother.  I respect him as a coach.  We have a lot of coach’s meetings where we talk philosophy.  He’s done a hell of a job – he’s one of the best coaches I’ve coached against.”

6. What it means: It’s difficult to glean much from a game in which Providence play with virtually five scholarship players, but after a rather sloppy effort throughout Fortune provided much-needed buzz late with his tremendous scoring flurry.  When Providence was at their best a season ago it was when Cotton was connecting from long range (Friar fans need look back no farther than the final week of the regular season when Cotton shot Providence into, and eventually away from Connecticut).

Conversely, the Friars struggled mightily when Cotton was taken out of games.  It will be an interesting dynamic to see what the Friars can become when both Fortune and Cotton have it rolling from deep, especially with Council picking defenses apart.  There will certainly be freshman moments from Fortune, as there was throughout the early stages on Saturday, but having two players capable of connecting from deep on three or four possessions in a row is something Providence has not had in quite some time.

The Friars open up their season on November 10 against New Jersey Tech.


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