Thoughts on an afternoon in which the Friars held on after losing their leader.
1. The numbers speak for themselves, but to be in the Dunkin Donuts Center when Vincent Council was sprawled on the floor in pain told the real story. A silence overtook the crowd as they wondered just how badly their star was hurt — and for it to happen to Council on the first day of his senior year just felt unfair.
After three trying years at Providence, Council admitted to feeling disappointment when All American freshman Ricardo Ledo was deemed ineligible. With another freshman All American on the shelf, the only other point guard on the roster in Kris Dunn, Friartown would once again have to ask too much of Council — play nearly 40 minutes a game, serve as the main, if not the only true creator, and find ways to score on a team that will need him to put the ball in the basketball while also leading the conference in assists if they are to stay afloat.
Without Council, Providence did enough to defeat a game NJIT squad in their opener Saturday night, despite shooting just 32% from the floor and missing 18 of their 21 three point attempts. Bryce Cotton filled in admirably for Council, with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists in 40 minutes of play, including the game winning free throw with five seconds left.
After NJIT missed a 40 foot prayer, the Friars escaped to start the season 1-0.
Council is set to have an MRI tomorrow, but without him an already shallow group just got desperately thin.
2. LaDontae Henton was terrific in the first half, scoring 18 of Providence’s 32 points, as the Friars led 32-29 heading into the locker room. Just how essential was Henton early? He made seven of Providence’s 11 field goals in the first 20 minutes.
It wasn’t a perfect afternoon for the sophomore, who missed on seven of his eight three point attempts, but he was perfect from the free throw line, finished with a team-leading 24, and made perhaps the defensive play of the game when he blocked an 18 footer with the game tied at 63 with 1:05 on the clock.
3. Ed Cooley was effusive in his praise of Brice Kofane in his post game press conference (we’ll have more from his presser soon). The redshirt sophomore played with a lot of energy, being credited with three blocked shots, while grabbing nine rebounds.
On a day in which Kadeem Batts (10 points, eight rebounds) fought through early foul trouble, and certain players were forced into bigger roles after Council went down, Kofane’s 32 energy-filled minutes kept NJIT from scoring with much success inside. Seven of their 22 field goals came from beyond the three point line.
4. In our “Five Things to Watch” segment, Dorchester, MA native Chris Flores was highlighted, and he did not disappoint, scoring 28 points on 10-19 from the field, 4-7 from three. Flores was terrific.
5. NJIT may have missed an opportunity to pressure the Friars, sitting back in their halfcourt defense as Providence committed on 11 turnovers without Council.
6. Providence is right back at it Monday night, very possibly without Council, when Bryant visits the Dunkin Donuts Center. With Council the Friars will be in survival mode. After the game Cooley stressed that he was just happy to walk out of here with a win.