A break for final exams seemed to come at a good time for a Providence team that's hoping to make the most of its final nonconference test on its home court.
The 14th-ranked Friars are expected to get a boost with three starters back in the lineup as they try to extend their best start in 27 years Saturday night against Rider.
Providence survived a scare last Saturday with preseason All-American Kris Dunn and Ryan Fazekas, the team's fourth leading scorer, sidelined with an illness. Ben Bentil, the Big East's second-leader scorer at 17.5 per game, also was limited with an ankle injury.
Bryant took advantage by opening up a 23-12 lead on the Friars, who had won 48 of their previous 49 nonconference games at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Bentil, though, made a difference after checking in for the first time with 5:15 left in the opening half.
The sophomore forward, who played all but 16.9 seconds of the final 20 minutes, had 16 points and eight rebounds to key a hard-fought 74-67 victory.
''Everyone expects you to win and they expect you to win by X amount of points," coach Ed Cooley said. "Given the way we started the game, I was anxious. When I relaxed, I thought the players relaxed. Obviously Ben helped relax everyone, too.''
Freshman Drew Edwards stepped up with 17 points while hitting five 3-pointers off the bench, while Jalen Lindsey added 15 points and Rodney Bullock had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Bullock also had 17 and seven while Dunn and Bentil played limited minutes and Fazekas was out in a 66-51 home win over Boston College on Dec. 9.
Back in action for the first time in a week, Providence is expected to have all three players back in the starting lineup as it tries to win 11 of its first 12 games for the first time since a 13-0 start in 1988-89. Dunn, the reigning Big East Player of the Year, has totaled 38 points, 23 assists and 20 rebounds in the last two home games he's been able to finish.
The Friars, seeking their fifth straight win, shot just 40.9 percent while shorthanded in their last two games after they had a combined 51.3 mark over the previous four.
They've won two of three meetings with Rider, including a 72-59 home win on Nov. 26, 1994, in the most recent matchup at Providence.
The Broncs (2-8) are going after their first consecutive victories of the season after snapping a four-game losing streak with last Saturday's 82-72 win at Charleston Southern.
Jimmie Taylor finished with 19 points, while Teddy Okereafor had 16 and 11 rebounds as Rider shot a season-high 52.8 percent. Okereafor has averaged 15.8 points over his last four games, but has missed 12 of 14 from 3-point range in his past two.
The Broncs have dropped eight straight versus ranked opponents by an average of 20.5 points since an 88-74 win at No. 18 Mississippi State on Nov. 13, 2009. However, they're undefeated this season when head coach Kevin Baggett doesn't wear a tie.
"I'm not a superstitious man," Baggett told the team's official website, "'but I am now 2-0 without a tie so I guarantee you I will not be wearing a tie Saturday night."