Providence head coach Ed Cooley screams as he attempts to direct his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Bryant, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Stephan Savoia
December 12, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Its best player out and its second-best not close to full strength, No. 15 Providence was clearly shorthanded entering Saturday's game against Bryant.

Even Friars coach Ed Cooley admitted he was under the weather, along with several of his players.

Needless to say, the break for final exams is coming at the perfect time for the Friars, who are off for a week after holding off the Bulldogs 74-67.

Drew Edwards scored a career-high 17 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead Providence (10-1). Usual starter Ben Bentil came off the bench to get 16 points as the Friars played without preseason All-America Kris Dunn, who missed the game with a stomach bug.

''Good team win. Looking forward to resting this week. The players and coaches need it. I think the fans even need a break right now,'' Cooley said.

Bentil didn't start against Bryant after spraining his left ankle Wednesday night against Boston College. He participated in pregame warmups while Dunn didn't. Instead, the reigning Big East Player of the Year sat on the bench.

Dan Garvin had 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting for Bryant (2-9), which has lost eight straight. Hunter Ware and Shane McLaughlin each finished with 14 points.

''I thought it was definitely a step forward for my team to come out here and really compete,'' Bryant coach Tim O'Shea said. ''To see Dan play like that and see Hunter hit some shots, we're making progress.''

Jalen Lindsey added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Friars, who have won four straight, while Rodney Bullock had 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Bryant took full advantage of Dunn and Bentil not being in the starting lineup. The Bulldogs hit nine of their first 16 shots in taking a 20-10 lead. Bryant's largest lead in the first half was 23-12.

Bryant still owned the upper hand when Bentil checked in for the first time with 5:15 left before halftime. The first time Bentil touched the ball, the sophomore buried a 15-footer from the left wing. His presence helped settle the Friars, particularly on the defensive end as Bryant missed 15 of its final 19 shots of the opening half.

''Ben was cleared to play on a limited basis. I thought when he came in the game, the whole thing changed,'' Cooley said. ''I didn't want to play him, I really didn't. At the end of the day, I think the kid's health is more important than a win. I left it up to him if he wanted to play and I'm always going to trust what the player is going to tell me.''

The Bulldogs led 32-28 at halftime thanks to Ware stealing the ball near midcourt and hitting a 25-footer just before the horn sounded.

Bentil started the second half and didn't come out of the game until there were 16.9 seconds remaining. Edwards was 0 for 7 from 3-point range for the season before hitting three straight from beyond the arc to put the Friars up 47-45.

A freshman, Edwards entered Saturday averaging 1.1 points in eight games. Against Boston College earlier in the week, he had a couple of shots that could be described as good looks. Neither one ended up dropping, though Edwards didn't run into such problems against the Bulldogs.

''Coach has talked to us about confidence and playing within the system,'' Edwards said. ''I just needed one to go in. Those ins-and-outs really hit you hard, but I was playing within the flow of the game and my teammates fed me the ball.''

The Bulldogs opened the half with more turnovers (6) than field goals attempted (2) and as a result trailed 59-47 after a layup by Bentil with 7:59 left.

The Friars hit 7 of 8 free throw attempts to close things out.

''This was really a hard game, it really was,'' Cooley said. ''Everyone expects you to win this game and they expect you to win by X amount of points. We played a desperate team today and given the way we started the game, I was anxious. When I relaxed, I thought the players relaxed. Obviously Ben helped relax everyone, too.''

OLD FRIENDS

O'Shea and Cooley were assistants on the same coaching staff for five seasons - one at Rhode Island and four at Boston College. Saturday marked the third matchup between the Friars and Bulldogs with O'Shea and Cooley at the helm of their respective programs.

NO QUESTION WHO'S THE BEST

O'Shea did not see Dunn play in person on Saturday. That said, the Bryant coach has seen enough of Dunn on film to know he's a special talent who is clearly heading places.

''I can't remember a better point guard to ever play New England college basketball and I've been coaching for 32 years. He's one of the all-time bests that I've seen,'' O'Shea said. ''He's got all those intangibles including the elite athleticism that you don't see often. He's got a will to win that's just unbelievable.''

TIP-INS

Bryant: The Bulldogs are winless in 11 games against Big East teams.

Providence: The Friars are 3-1 in games when trailing at halftime.

UP NEXT

Bryant plays at Michigan on Dec. 23.

Providence hosts Rider on Dec. 19.

You May Like