With just two games left until the BIG EAST season begins for the Providence College Friars, Ed Cooley's bunch was without their cornerstone player again Saturday night. Kris Dunn, battling an illness, was not dressed to play against the Rider Broncs, but that didn't stop the Friars from continuing their winning ways.
Powered by the play of Ben Bentil and Rodney Bullock, the Providence College Friars picked up their 11th win of the year to the tune of 73-65. The win pushes them to an 11-1 start to the season, which marks the best start in program history since Eric Murdock and the 1988-89 team began the year 12-0.
19 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore forward Ben Bentil paid dividends for Providence College on Saturday night. Netting his first double-double since November 18 vs. Illinois, Bentil helped pick up the slack with the Friars' superstar point guard shelved due to illness. Not to be outdone, two other Friars picked up double-doubles as Rodney Bullock and Jalen Lindsey each had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and 13 and 13 respectively.
Here's what we learned from this victory:
1. Without Dunn, Providence can still get it done: We're not going to 'Ewing Theory' PC quite yet, but it's still pleasing for Friartown to see their team compete night in and night out and pull out victories such as these. The Friars punched out the Broncs at the start of the game, holding a 13-0 advantage. Though they were outdone 29-20 to end the first half, the Friars went on an 8-3 run to start the first half and built up a 58-44 lead at the 10:56 mark of the second half. That was pushed even further to 63-48 at the 8:25 mark after a Jalen Lindsey layup, and the game was put on ice after a jumper by Junior Lomomba at the 1:32 mark. It goes without saying that in the rigorous BIG EAST, the Friars will need Kris Dunn in the lineup. For now though, they can take solace in that a "Next Man Up" mentality has been taken to heart.
2. The Friars can still win without solid 3-point shooting: Going into Saturday's matchup with Rider, Providence ranked 250th in the country in 3-point field goal percentage. The Friars played like a team ranked 250th in 3-point FG% on Saturday night, shooting 6-for-23 from the perimeter. Their opponent fared only slightly better as the Broncs went 6-for-19 from the 3-point line. They may run into a problem facing the Xavier's, Butler's, Creighton's and Seton Hall's of the world in conference play, but they're still finding ways to get in the win column in spite of lackluster perimeter shooting.
3. Ben Bentil is a bona fide stud: And you can't (!) teach (!) that (!). Bentil climbed into double figures for the ninth consecutive game and for the tenth in his last eleven games played. Though he was unusually off from the free throw line, tapering away from his 80.7 mark on the season shooting just 50.0 percent from the line on Saturday night, Bentil kept on producing points and making contributions. His 12 boards tie a season-high, which also were vs. Illinois, and tied a season-high in blocks with two, which came against the Illini as well as Boston College. His emergence continues to be an extremely positive story for Providence in 2015, and one that should only progress as BIG EAST Conference play arrives soon.