Coming off a struggle for a win to open the season hosting NJIT at the Dunkin Donuts Center here in Providence, it was important for the Friars own confidence to come away from game two of this young season against nearby Bryant University with a very convincing win, and behind junior Kadeem Batts and his career high 27 points they did just that, dominating the Bulldogs in every phase of the game, from the tip-off to the final buzzer.
With senior point guard and team leader Vincent Council sitting out due to a hamstring strain suffered in the opener, the Friars were in need of someone to step up and lead this team. In the first game that torch was passed back and forth between sophomore forward LaDontae Henton and junior guard Bryce Cotton, with expected leader Batts taking something of a back seat, but in the second game the 6-9 forward brought his hard hat, lunch pail, and went to work erasing those memories alongside junior guard Bryce Cotton.
Between the two juniors, they accounted for 51 of the Friars’ 81 total points, including their first five baskets right out of the gate, setting a tone for the game and taking an early lead that PC would never relinquish. That opening burst shows a small part of Batts’ dominance over as he continued on, scoring 23 of the Friars’ 47 first half points and single-handedly outscoring the smaller Bulldogs by 2 on his own.
With only 7 players suiting up last night, PC had to rely on a bit of a short bench, and despite the blowout were unable to really give any of their starters any rest against a team that threw the kitchen sink at them, playing 11 players in an unsuccessful attempt to run to run the Friars off their own home court. What they didn’t count on was PC’s sure shooting, as they went 31-54 from the floor (57%) and shot 53% from behind the arc as well (8-15). With everyone hustling and doing a little bit of everything (starting point guard Bryce Cotton had 11 rebounds) the Friars were able to come out of this game and go into the Puerto Rico tip-off tournament with a 2-0 record and coming off a very dominant performance.
Regardless of the caliber of their opponent last night, there continues to be reason for optimism for Friar fanatics as we see Cotton grow more and more comfortable on the floor. Cotton has always had a solid shot, but this year is the first time we’ve really seen him step up and do all things on the floor for his team, handling the ball, dishing to teammates, and even grabbing double digit rebounds. The other Brice-Kofane-has been stellar as well, giving the team a defensive lift off the bench, and averaging 3 blocks per game in 25 minutes per game this young season. Let’s hope this trend continues while Council and Dunn continue to heal and throughout the season even following their return as the team works to overcome the obstacles that have been put in their way (with 4 players ineligible).
The Friars face the UMass Minutemen in the Puerto Rico this Thursday evening at 7:30 pm EST. The game will be televised on ESPNU, and if they win that game they’ll continue on to play the next day and this coming Sunday as well. Stay tuned here all season to follow your Friars.
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