Friar Basketball

Culture Winning the Day at Providence

Bentil Flexing vs BC

“This was an incredible win for us. In the past we would have folded. We would have given in. Guys would have felt sorry for themselves. Today, was about our culture and about our grit.”

— Ed Cooley following Providence’s 66-51 victory over Boston College

That word keeps popping up in Ed Cooley’s press conferences: culture. Hardly a press conference goes by without Cooley mentioning the culture being established in his program.

This is why Cooley was brought here, what he promised when he arrived, and what Friartown hoped the program would become under this regime. Providence is ranked 15th in the nationally, they feature the best guard, if not the best player in the country, and have watched their sophomore big man turn into one of the game’s breakout stars. Yet, perhaps most impressive, there is now an expectation of success and a belief — from the players to the staff to the fan base — that regardless of circumstance, Ed Cooley and the Friars will find a way.

The feeling in Providence had been quite the opposite for the longest time, but with each big win, with every instance in which they withstand supposedly debilitating injuries, transfers, suspensions, or coaching staff changes, Cooley’s culture is further ingrained.

There have been several times the Friars could have folded through their first ten games.

They didn’t give in when Arizona pulled ahead by seven late in the second half with Kris Dunn on the bench with four fouls.

They stayed close enough to pull one out at the horn at URI, despite a wild crowd and the Rams banking in difficult jumpers.

And on Wednesday night their hearts had to have sunk when Ben Bentil (who was devouring BC to the tune of a 16 point first half) went down with an ankle injury. There had to have been more nerves when Dunn was sent home at halftime with a a stomach virus. And there could have been pure panic when their 14 point halftime lead was whittled to four after BC started the second half on a 14-4 run.

These are the games the Friars would have lost in the past, but then that culture and grit kicked in.

Culture and Rodney Bullock.

Bullock scored just two points in a foul prone first half, but he put the Friars on his back offensively in the second, scoring seven straight points for PC after the lead had been cut to four. He made seven field goals in the second half, a half capped by a pair of three pointers by Jalen Lindsey in the final three minutes.

With Dunn on his way home, Bentil a bystander, and Ryan Fazekas unable to play with a virus of his own, Providence pulled out yet another one, and avoided what could have been a blow to their RPI.

* * *

Freshmen impact: The numbers won’t bear it out, but freshmen Quadree Smith and Drew Edwards both provided a spark for PC. Cooley praised Smith after the game for his defensive positioning and throwing his body around, as Smith made all six free throws he attempted and grabbed four rebounds in just 13 minutes.

Edwards’ impact was a bit more subtle. He finished without a field goal, but grabbed three rebounds, made a pair of free throws and came up with a pair of steals.

His first steal came at a key moment. With just under ten minutes remaining and BC having cut the lead to four, Bullock made a free throw to give Providence just their third point in a seven minute stretch. Edwards’ steal led to an offensive rebound and finally a Bullock jumper to give the Friars some much needed breathing room at a critical juncture of the game (46-39 with 8:42 on the clock).

Bentil feasting early: The only thing that can keep Bentil from 20 points these days is a twisted ankle. He didn’t play in the second half, but still finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Bentil came into this game having scored 20 or more points in five straight games, and had been shooting over 80% at the free throw line. He made 6-7 at the stripe against the Eagles.

Quiet Night for Reyes: Providence pursued 6’10 BC freshman forward Johncarlos Reyes in the spring, but he ultimately decided on Boston College. After scoring just four points all season he saw more minutes for the shorthanded Eagles and surprised with 11 points and 14 rebounds against a small UMass Lowell club last weekend.

Reyes played just two minutes on Wednesday night and finished with one rebound.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar


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