Friar Basketball

Harris, Depth Paying Huge Dividends for PC

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Patience is paying off for Ed Cooley and the Friars.

On a night in which Bryce Cotton and Kris Dunn combined to shoot 3-19 from the field, and Kadeem Batts was effective, but limited minutes-wise due to foul trouble, Providence defeated a good LaSalle team, 71-63, in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam thanks in large part to the play of two newcomers.

For the second straight game the fighting Friars came back from double digits down to win here in the Virgin Islands, and for the second straight game Tyler Harris led PC in scoring. The 6’9 transfer from NC State is beginning to show why so many in Providence were high on him heading into this season. Harris has been quietly putting up solid stat lines early this season, but there was nothing quiet about his 22 point, 9 rebound outburst on Sunday night.

In a game in which a 13 point second half PC lead was dwindled to just one with 3:34 remaining, Harris scored eight points over the final 2:49. He twice made a pair of free throws to make it a two possession game, and then sealed it in the final minute with a bank shot and two more at the line. Harris finished 9-9 at the stripe and has now made 20-22 free throws through six games. As a team, Providence finished 21-22 at the free throw line against LaSalle.

At 6’9, with the ability to score inside, from deep (1-2 from 3 tonight) and at the line, Harris gives Providence the type of scoring option that might have won them another 2-3 games last season had he been available.

If Harris is the missing dimension on offense, Carson Desrosiers has had just as big of an impact on the defensive end. The official scorer was keeping a closer eye on Desrosiers tonight apparently (a 5-6 block night was somehow logged as 1 on Friday), as he was credited for six blocks on Sunday night. Desrosiers has already established himself as the best shot blocker to play for Providence since Marcus Douthit a decade ago, as he’s provided an intimidating presence at the rim that has been badly lacking in this program since.

LaSalle opened this game on a 10-0 run. How they did so was troubling: three layups, a dunk and a turnaround in the paint.¬†Providence out-scored the Explorers 30-16 from that point on in the first, with Desrosiers changing the course of LaSalle drivers with four blocks in the game’s opening 20 minutes.

These are the differences in Friartown this year.¬†In both of the games in this Paradise Jam we’ve seen things that haven’t been seen in Providence in quite a while.

Coming back from double digits down.

The intimidator at the rim.

Winning a pair of neutral court games with the team’s fourth leading scorer heading into the tournament leading them in scoring in each victory.

Winning games in which the star guard is searching for his shot (Cotton has gone 8-31 in the tournament, but in fairness made two monster shots versus Vandy), and the team’s best big spending a majority of the final 10 minutes in each game watching from the bench with foul trouble.

There’s a long way to go in this season, and the sense from here is that Providence still has plenty of room to grow into a cohesive offensive unit, but in Cooley’s third season at the helm we’re beginning to see his vision coming to life.

The Friars have options.

Cooley was willing to play short-handed last season and wait for both Harris and Desrosiers, and through six games he’s seen a variety of different players emerge when others faltered. There hasn’t been a player in the top seven rotation who hasn’t had at least one so-so game to bad game so far, yet Cooley’s team is now 6-0.

They have a chance to make it 7-0 tomorrow night in the championship against Maryland. It’s anyone’s guess who will be the most impactful Friar out there.

 

Email Kevin at kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

 

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