1. After Saturday’s season-opening victory over NJIT, Ed Cooley made it a point to note how Kadeem Batts had a strong week of practice heading into the opener. While Batts was serviceable in the first game of the year (10 points, eight rebounds) the redshirt junior exploded when his team needed him to most — with Vincent Council sidelined on Monday night against Bryant.
Playing nearly flawlessly on the offensive end, and drawing praise in the post game press conference from Cooley for his defense, Batts helped blow open a game that many thought would be closely contested. The power forward made 10 of 11 shots from the floor, hit three of his four free throw attempts, grabbed seven rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over once, as he out-scored Bryant in the first half by himself 23-21. The Friars had dominated the first half and Batts was the biggest reason why.
He displayed his full offensive arsenal early, kicking the game off with a hook shot before confidently knocking down his face-up jumper, and finally cleaning the offensive glass late for easy looks at the rim.
By game’s end, Batts had tied his career high with 27 points on 12-15 shooting from the floor to go along with nine rebounds.
Ed Cooley on Batts’ effort, “I’m pleased with how he anchored the defense for us.” He continued, “We really wanted to get the ball into the interior early which got Kadeem going.”
Batts noted afterwards that he made more a concerted effort to assert himself with Council sidelined, “With us losing our floor general, I felt a lot of responsibility to step up and bring a lot of energy to the team.”
He brought more than energy on Monday night. Batts set the tone for the Friars two days after they lost their tone-setter for the foreseeable future.
Craig was able to catch up with Batts after the game:
2. Lost in Council’s injury was the fact that Providence only had the time, and the bodies, to do a walk-through on Sunday. They wouldn’t even get a full practice to get accustomed to Bryce Cotton running the show.
Cotton didn’t just run the show on Monday night, he connected from deep (4-7 from three point range), scored in the paint, visited the free throw line frequently (8-11), dished out six assists, and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds.
It was as complete an effort as Cooley could have asked for from a guard who hadn’t logged significant minutes at point guard in his PC career.
Heading into this one some questioned how Cotton would handle leading the offense. Few expected him to lead them in rebounds in doing so.
Prior to last season some questioned if Cotton would have a role with the Friars once the highly-regarded 2012 class came to town, but he’s turned himself into an invaluable piece in the past 12 months.
3. Cooley noted in the post game that limiting Bryant’s looks from three was key to the game plan, and the Friars did just that, as the Bulldogs missed on 21 of their 26 shots from deep. Some were open looks that they just missed, but Providence did a fine job of neutralizing their outside shooting, while slowing Alex Francis — holding him to just 13 points in 35 minutes. That was a step in the right direction for the Friars, as Cooley noted after the NJIT game that he was disappointed that their leading scorer, Chris Flores, was able to get loose on the Friars for a big night (28 points).
Bryant shot just 30% from the field on the night after NJIT shot just 36%.
4. It was the second sneaky solid game in a row for junior Lee Goldsbrough. He made some grittier plays in a five rebound opener, and followed that up with a more active eight rebound, four foul 20 minutes of action tonight. The junior is playing with added toughness on the interior.
5. It was an efficient night for LaDontae Henton, who showed signs of regaining the three point stroke that went missing in the two exhibition games and the opener — making two of four from 3 point range. Henton was his typical solid self from 18 feet in, making five of the ten shots he attempted from inside the arc as well.
Efficiency was a theme for the entire team Monday, after they shot 63% in the first half and 57% for the game. The Friars did experience a lull in the first half, going without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. Bryant was on the verge of making a game of it, going on a 9-0 run to cut the Friar lead to 16 at 48-32, before Batts connected on a 19 footer that led a mini-PC surge.
6. Providence hops on an early flight tomorrow morning as they prepare to take on Massachusetts in their first game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Email Kevin at kevin.farrahar@Friarbasketball.com