Friar Basketball

Looking Back on 2011-12: Inconsistent on the floor, building hope off in November


Part II of a six part, month-by-month breakdown of the past year.

Shaky on the court, but continuing to build excitement away from it, November saw Providence snap a near two year road losing streak, take baby steps against lesser competition at home, and struggle through an unfortunate trip to South Padre.

With the news breaking of Kadeem Batts’ indefinite suspension combined with the NCAA deeming Kiwi Gardner academically ineligible, Friar fans took to the recruiting trail for encouraging news regarding the future of the program.

Providence celebrated signing day with a press conference in which head coach Ed Cooley broke down the recruitment and game of signees Josh Fortune (Hampton, VA), Kris Dunn (New London, CT), and Ricardo Ledo (Providence, RI).  It was a class that ranked among ESPN’s top 10 in the nation, and one that dubbed the best in the Big East through the fall signing period.

Ledo did nothing to lower expectations after he went off for 37 points (22 in the first half) in a blowout win over La Jolla Prep at the loaded National Prep Showcase in New Haven.  The New England Recruiting Report called it “by far the most dominant performance of the day” and CBS Sports’ Jeff Borzello noted “when his head is in the game, he’s as good as anyone in the country.”

On the court, the results weren’t so promising.  The Friars came within a missed jump shot of losing to DII UMass-Lowell in their final exhibition tune-up and clipped a rebuilding Farleigh Dickinson in Cooley’s debut behind 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists off the bench from sophomore Gerard Coleman.  On an afternoon in which Vincent Council struggled through a 5-19 shooting performance, it was Coleman and fellow sophomore Bryce Cotton (3-6 from three, 16 points) who helped ensure Cooley came out on top in his first game back home.

Nearly two years removed from their last road victory, PC traveled to face Fairfield, Cooley’s former team – and one he labeled a top 25 club in the preseason – for their second game of the season.  Seemingly out of nowhere, the offense clicked on the road, as Council (26 points, 19 in the second half), Cotton (career high 24 points) and Coleman (17 off of the bench) combined for 67 of Providence’s 81 points in an 80-72 upset.  Flashing an impressive up-tempo approach, the Friars scored 51 second half points, and quietly there was hope they could build off of a surprisingly improved attack.

After a pair of wins over subpar opponents (a blowout of Florida A&M, and a putrid win versus Southern in which they shot 26% on 13 field goals made – a PC low during the shot clock era) the Friars headed to South Padre where they struggled against Iowa State and Northern Iowa, losing both games, dropping to 4-2.

Council (21 points) and Coleman (20 points, 8 rebounds) were solid against a good Iowa State club, but their teammates went just 5-19 from the field.  Council was again the bright spot the next day versus Northern Iowa, scoring 26 more, while freshman LaDontae Henton began what would become a rapid statistical climb with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Providence closed out November in a wild one against Holy Cross.  Leading 66-51 with 11 minutes to play, PC looked to be in control, but the Crusaders ripped off an 18-3 run to tie the game at 69 late.  In a sign of things to come, the freshman Henton made two clutch plays late, tying the game with just under a minute to go by grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring, and then converting a traditional three point play with 26 seconds to snap the tie.

Speaking of signs to come, Council, Coleman (re-inserted in the starting lineup by month’s end), Cotton and Henton scored 78 of the Friars’ 82 points with Council (19 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds) and Coleman (18 points, eight rebounds, six assists) stuffing the stat sheet.  Cotton continued his early emergence with 24 more points, while Henton was terrific with 18 points and nine rebounds in Providence’s best offensive showing since the Fairfield victory.

November Trends and Notes: A month into the season, Cotton had seemingly emerged out of nowhere, scoring at least 24 points in half of the team’s games (although he was shutout against Northern Iowa and scored 12 combined against Iowa State and Southern), Henton began to realize that he can produce at this level, while Council and Coleman kept statisticians occupied.

At 5-2 heading into December, the Friars had begun to establish an offensive identity (above average in the open court, troubled when the game slowed) with six winnable out of conference opponents remaining.

Instability in the frontcourt turned to desperation once Batts was suspended, and with the power forward rumored to return in late December there was hope that he could provide consistent minutes to a group that badly needed help.  Lee Goldsbrough went from 20 minute per game starter early in the season to bit player by the end of November, Brice Kofane grabbed 12 rebounds against Holy Cross, but had failed to establish himself in his second season on campus, while redshirt junior Bilal Dixon played 13 minutes or less in six of the seven games in November.  He closed the month with six minutes of playing time against the Cross.

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