Providence defeated Illinois by the score of 60-59 Wednesday night, in a back and forth matchup at the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games.
While neither team brought their "A" game, both showed that versatility and resilience in a contest that came down to the final possession. With that said, here are three key takeaways from the matchup in P-town.
Two Quality Teams
This game really could have gone to either team, as the largest lead was Providence by seven midway through the second half. Providence and Illinois played most of the game in a 2-3 zone defensively, which worked with varying success. The Illini were able to hit open 3's at times, as they shot a respectable 37.5% from downtown on the night. Much of Providence's early success came on the offensive glass, as the Friars recorded 10 offensive rebounds in the first half.
As the game came to a close, Providence was able to take advantage of Illinois being in foul trouble, as they scored four of their final six points from the charity stripe. In the end, both teams proved to be quality opponents, but certainly not the class of their respective conferences at this point. That said, both should leave this game feeling encouraged about their prospects for the season.
Bentil on the Boards
The 6'9" sophomore was a thorn in the Illini's side all night, as he finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Ben Bentil was most effective on the offensive glass, bringing down eight of his 12 rebounds on that side of the court, including a monstrous put-back dunk in the first half. The big man was the most effective weapon for Providence in a night where their key scorers struggled for spurts, as he was able to find holes in the Illinois zone to create easy second chance baskets.
Dunn shows up down the stretch
It was not a pretty night for Kris Dunn, who finished the first half with only one point, playing limited minutes after picking up two early fouls. The player many are calling the best point guard in the nation didn't even record his first field goal until there were just under nine minutes remaining in the second half. However, as game neared its end, Dunn really turned on the jets.
After their 2-3 zone contained the Illini offense for most of the game, Providence switched to a man-to-man scheme for the final few possessions of the game. This is where Dunn was really able to use his length to affect the game, as he turned a block of Illini star Malcolm Hill into a fast break lay-up that tied the game with just under four minutes left. With the Friars up 60-59 with just under a minute to go, Dunn showed his defensive prowess again, blocking what would've been a go-ahead layup for Alex Austin. Providence will certainly need to rely on Dunn to create offense for the rest of the year, but tonight his strong defensive play was enough.