Providence beats Evansville 74-64 in Wooden
FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) On a night when his marquee player got off to a sluggish start, Providence coach Ed Cooley was able to get some yeoman efforts from others to get past Evansville in an opening-round game at the DirecTV Wooden Legacy.
Ben Bentil scored a career-high 24 points and Dunn had 18 after a sluggish start, helping the Friars run their record to 5-0 with a 74-64 victory on Thursday night.
''We had to tell Kris to slow down a little bit early in the game because he was trying to do too much,'' Cooley said. ''But Kris is going to see so much attention this year. Everywhere he goes, there's three on the ball everywhere he moves.
''So the more shots everybody else is able to make - which we're comfortable with them taking - the better we'll get, because you can't continue to guard Kris with your whole team.''
Four players scored in double figures for the Friars, including Junior Lomomba with 13.
''If I had a game ball today, I'd go with Junior,'' Cooley said. ''He did all the little things that don't show up on the stat sheet.''
Evansville (3-1) was led by D.J. Balentine with 18 points, and Egidiju Mockevicius with 13 points and nine rebounds.
''We shot the ball really well,'' Balentine said. ''But we had a lot of turnovers that allowed them to get a lot of easy points at the free throw line and in transition.''
Providence led 40-32 at halftime, despite missing 10 of its first 13 shots and getting outscored 16-2 in the paint through the first 12 minutes. Bentil led the way for the Friars with 17 points, offsetting Balentine's 13 points and Evansville's 63.6 percent shooting (14 for 22).
''We came out in zone, just to see what it would look like, and it was a bad move by us because it put us back on our heels early,'' Cooley said. ''They came out with a little bit more sense of urgency than we did and scored 10 straight points.''
Ryan Fazekas hit a 3-pointer with 6:53 left in the half to give Providence a 24-22 lead, its first since Bentil's game-opening 3.
Dunn increased the margin to 34-26 on a 16-footer that capped a 16-4 run with 3 1/2 minutes left before intermission, then converted his steal of Adam Wing in the backcourt into a fastbreak dunk and a 3-point play to put the Friars up 40-29 - their biggest lead of the half.
''Our main focus was Dunn,'' Evansville coach Marty Simmons said. ''He not only scores the basketball, he's a great passer. He makes those guys better with his vision and his ability to get the ball to people when they are open.''
Dunn and Lomomba keyed an 11-0 run that opened the second half and increased the Friars' margin to 51-32 with 15:24 remaining. Dunn hit a pair of outside jumpers during that stretch, while Evansville came out of halftime 0 for 10 from the field.
Evansville sliced a 17-point deficit to 69-59 with 2:47 to play, after Balentine made a jumper, a 3-point play and dunk during a 58-second span. But that was as close as the Purple Aces got.
Evansville: Balentine, the leading active scorer among Division I players, is trying to join Larry Bird (Indiana St.) and Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati) as the only players to lead the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring in three consecutive seasons.
Providence: This was Bentil's second collegiate game with at least 20 points. He had 21 against Seton Hall last March 4. ... The only other time the Friars faced Evansville in men's basketball was on Dec. 11, 1975, a 98-71 victory at Providence.
Evansville: Faves Arizona of Santa Clara in the second round of the Wooden Legacy.
Providence: Faces Arizona or Santa Clara on Friday in the second round of the Wooden Legacy.