Ed Cooley thought he would have to win an in-state rivalry game without the services of three starters. Ryan Fazekas and Kris Dunn sat due to sickness, and Ben Bentil looked doubtful to play with a balky ankle. With the trio reduced to mere spectators in the first half, Bryant was able to build a substantial lead. The Friars looked lost and confused, which is to be expected from a young team missing its two best players. For the second straight game, the Friars played an ugly basketball game.
With the Friars still trailing late in the first half, Cooley summoned the injured Bentil from the bench, and the game turned on a dime. It wasn't just that Bentil added a needed scoring threat; his addition seemed to spark the players around him as well. Rodney Bullock looked like a scoring threat again, Kyron Cartwright looked much more in control of the point, and little-used freshman Drew Edwards caught fire in the second half to propel the 15th ranked Friars to an 74-67 victory over the Bulldogs at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence.
Early on, Providence looked like they were headed for a shocking loss. They started 0-13 from three-point range, many of the misses coming on wide-open looks that were given to them by Bryant's 2-3 zone. It was ugly, and Ed Cooley shuffled his rotation, calling on unheralded players like Edwards and fellow frosh Ricky Council before eventually turning to Bentil, a change that ultimately turned the tide of the game.
At the time of Bentil's entry, Providence was trailing 28-19 with 5:15 to go in the first half . Right from the get-go, Bentil established himself, hitting a mid-range jumper to cut Bryant's lead to 7, and lifting the proverbial weight off of his teammates' shoulders. Following Bentil's entry into the game, Providence outscored the Bulldogs 55-39.
Rodney Bullock added another double-double for the Friars, finishing with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Bentil, in his limited action, still finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds, and Edwards second half surge gave him a team-high 17 points. Jalen Lindsey had 15 points, and was the fourth and final Friar who scored in double digits.
Bryant was led by Dan Garvin's 16 points and 9 boards, and Hunter Ware added 14, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer to push Bryant's lead to 32-28 just before halftime. They led by as much as 11, an impressive stat for a team whose average margin of defeat, as FOX's Justin Kutcher pointed out, was nearly 24 points. They fell to 2-9, and travel to Michigan on December 23 for their next game.
The Friars improved to 10-1 with the victory, and now take a full week off for final exams. The key now is to get Dunn and Fazekas healthy, and give Bentil the rest needed for his ankle to fully heal.They return to action next Saturday night at the Dunk, when they will take on the Rider Broncs.