Friar Basketball

Live from St. Thomas: Day 1 Recap

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I typically avoid writing in first person, but I figured I’d provide additional thoughts on the tournament and the overall experience while here in St. Thomas.

For starters, I could have planned out our arrival here a little bit differently. That’s being kind. We caught a midnight flight out of Boston which landed in San Juan around 3:30 a.m., enjoyed a four-hour layover there, and got our only sleep of the day on the 20-minute flight from San Juan to St. Thomas. The Mrs. was kind enough not to remind me of the fact that I sold this flight as “an adventure” when booking it last July. Not sure I would have done the same if we were going on a literary tour of London — her equivalent. Happy anniversary, dear.

This is my first time attending one of these early season tropical tournaments, and it sort of has a smaller, NCAATournament feel. The moment we arrived we saw Brandon AustinĀ cutting through the lobby and the entire Marist team (who kept things interesting for the first 30 minutes against Maryland); and there are players, coaches and fans from each of the teams popping up throughout the day. It’s pretty cool to talk to fans from other schools and get their impression of the tournament and the Friars, and there are shuttles taking fans to and from the hotel to the arena (fans of each school sit together). The open air buses provided an opportunity to meet fellow fans, as well as some terrific people who work at Providence.

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The energy from an amazing comeback win carried over to our bus. A Friar flag waved from inside, and everyone started cheering as we pulled back in to our hotel to ensure that anyone in the lobby who gave up on the Friars early knew they had missed out on an outstanding win.

As for the game experience itself, we walked in during the Maryland/Marist game (which was still a game when we arrived with about 13 minutes left in the second), and the first thing that jumped out at me was that it felt like watching a high school game, albeit with much better players — the setting is intimate and it’s open seating.

I got a media credential for the tournament, but decided yesterday to sit behind the PC bench instead. Typically, Craig, Craig and I stoically watch the games at the Dunk (and I feel like I’m good at separating the proud graduate of PC with the writer who tries to be as unbiased as possible when covering the team), and I more than made up for a couple of years of not yelling at games during the final ten minutes last night.

With the open seating, we dropped ourselves two rows behind PC’s bench, and our section pretty much lost it when PC took that game over.

With the win, Providence gets the equivalent of a bye today, as Friars fans will have the weekend to enjoy a tremendous win on a night in which PC struggled for 30 minutes, Kadeem Batts battled through foul issues, and Bryce Cotton searched to find his jump shot (which he located just in time).

Until next time, here are 3 Up in Friartown:

1. Kris Dunn. There’s not much more to add to what I wrote last night, but Dunn was the game’s best player last night, proving that Providence now has a third option who can take games over. He’s the best on this team at breaking down defenses and finding teammates, a trait he wasn’t able to show as much last season playing off of the ball. Sometimes the stats don’t tell the whole story — Dunn had a much bigger impact than his 10 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals attest.

2. Carson Desrosiers. The seven footer is giving Providence more than many had expected early in his PC career. A year ago, losing Batts to foul issues would have sunk the Friars, but Desrosiers both fills in ably for him, and plays wells alongside Batts. The official scorer credited Desrosiers with just one block, which seems unfathomable. He had two swats on one possession, and sent back two or three others last night. He put up good block numbers at Wake Forest, but the junior center is a better shot blocker than projected to be. PC came back from 16 down with Batts on the bench throughout — unheard of last year. Desrosiers finished a key three point play during an 18-0 run in the second half, and dunked to tie it with 2:30 remaining.

3. Ted Bancroft: Poor Tyler Harris should have found his way into the top 3 somehow. He led the team in scoring (15 points on 6-12 shooting) and made two big shots during PC’s march back, but he’ll be in this space plenty this season. Ed Cooley once again reached for Bancroft for some late energy, and the tide began turning when the senior came in. He finished with a pair of rebounds and a made free throw, but his five minutes of activity helped inject life into the Friars.

Honorable mention: Ed Cooley. Throughout much of the night Cooley was frustrated and his team seemed dazed, but he made three key decisions in the second half that helped turn the tide.

This is a Providence group that gets jump shot happy at times — a trait that allowed Vermont to get back into it last Monday — and after hoisting 15 three pointers in the first half (making just two), the Friars cut down on the jump shots, taking just six 3s in the second. They made three huge ones.

Cooley alternated between a zone and full court press after Vanderbilt waltzed their way to the rim throughout, which worked perfectly (Vandy scored just four points over the final 10 minutes). He rode Desrosiers over Batts late, and played his Bancroft card perfectly.

 

Kevin Farrahar on Twitter

Email Kevin at kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

 

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