Story highlights include:
- Shanley’s presence in new Big East
- Dunn’s best game at Providence
- Bancroft playing every minute like it’s his last
It was a long-awaited day in Providence.
Early on Wednesday the Presidents of the new Big East schools gathered in New York City to announce the formation of the 10 team conference, as well as a landmark $500 million television deal with Fox Sports. Providence College President Father Brian Shanley was masterful both at the morning press conference in New York and in explaining how the deal came to fruition to the local media prior to the game.
As for the game, the Friars won their first non-conference tournament postseason game in 10 years, scoring a 75-66 win against a rugged Charlotte bunch that led by as many as seven early before Providence controlled the second half. Bryce Cotton played his first game in Providence since being named 1st Team All Big East and certainly looked the part in scoring 25 points on 7-16 shooting from the field and 4-8 from deep. He’s now just the third Friar in program history to make over 90 three pointers in a season.
The victory would not have been possible if not for the terrific play of freshman guard Kris Dunn, who played his best collegiate game according to head coach Ed Cooley. It didn’t come without a scare.
Dunn was out of commission for six months following shoulder surgery last summer, and it’s taken him nearly three months to truly look like himself in his first year in black and white. He’d shown signs of a breakthrough in recent weeks, and was well on his way tonight before he was suddenly hunched over holding his shoulder in pain. It was enough to take the air out of a surprisingly spry Dunkin Donuts Center crowd.
Fortunately, Dunn returned (with a vengeance) minutes later and finished off the best night of his freshman year.
While Cotton noted after the game that playing this late into the season is new territory for not just the youngsters, but the veterans on the team, the hope of Cooley and his staff is that a strong showing in the NIT will carry into the 2013-14. Already, the NIT paid dividends for Dunn.
Without this tournament we would not have seen the freshman drop a fat stat line of 14 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. What’s more, he turned the ball over just once in 34 minutes, while making six of seven shots.
It was an effort that Friar fans had been hoping for all season, and has to be a major confidence boost for the guard that will take over the reigns of this program in seven short months. Suddenly, the rest of Dunn’s game is catching up to his stellar defense – a huge positive for PC.
Not to be lost in the big nights of Cotton and Dunn was the lift that both Vincent Council and Ted Bancroft provided in the second half.
Playing in what may have been his last game at the Dunk, Council scored 10 points in a deciding second half in which PC outscored Charlotte 42-30. With Providence trailing with 11 minutes to play Council scored the game’s next eight points over a 2:30 span to give PC a 54-48 advantage. When Charlotte scored seven straight to retake the lead two minutes later, Council once again came through, finishing a layup with 6:22 remaining to give PC a lead they would never relinquish.
After the game Cooley was effusive in his praise of Bancroft, the walk-on forward who admitted afterwards that he did not expect to play much this year. Cooley noted how his energy is infectious amongst his teammates and the home crowd, “Our team really feeds off of him. Our crowd feeds off of him. You all feed off of him when Ted is out there doing his thing. I believe in him, I really do. It’s the little things that make a difference. He is a dream for young men out there saying ‘I wish I could make a team.’ He is a scholarship player now earning his keep. I am proud of what he has been able to do for our program.”
Bancroft has found his niche as a spot energy player who seemingly always plays solid defense and makes the little plays that don’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet. When asked about his energy level, Bancroft noted that every time out he thinks this could be the last time he sees the floor. He certainly plays with that type of urgency when given minutes. And his on-ball defense has been very good all year.
With the win Providence will host Robert Morris (a team that made national headlines in knocking off Kentucky on Tuesday) in the second round of the NIT. The time and location of that game will be announced on Thursday. They’ll play either Sunday or Monday and could play at either the Dunkin Donuts Center or the Ryan Center on Rhode Island’s campus.
“When you get to tournament play it is just about survive and move on,” said Cooley afterwards. “I think we came out not as physical as we wanted to be. We had to adjust to the way the game was being called. I think once we did that we settled down.
“It is the first game we scored 70 points since we played Seton Hall at home. I thought we have had some open shots in our other games and we just not have been able to make them. Today we did. I thought it was a great team effort.”
The win marked the end of a whirlwind day for the program. Some long-awaited questions were answered today. The Friars got an overdue postseason victory, they appear to have conference stability for the first time in a decade and Kris Dunn showed tonight that the hype is indeed real.
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