December 20, 2015

Not having the reigning conference player of the year in the lineup for multiple games might significantly hamper other teams, but Providence has been doing just fine without Kris Dunn.

Still, the 10th-ranked Friars surely wouldn't mind having him back after a two-game absence when they host UMass and its high-scoring trio Monday night.

Dunn averaged 15.5 points and a Big East-high 7.5 assists in 2014-15. He's averaging 16.8 points and again leads the Big East with 6.9 assists as Providence (11-1) has gotten off to its best start since winning its first 13 of 1989-90.

The senior, though, has been dealing with a stomach virus that kept him out of a 74-67 win over Bryant on Dec. 12 and Saturday's 73-65 victory over Rider.

Dunn was on the bench in street clothes over the weekend, and coach Ed Cooley is hopeful he'll be able to return against UMass (6-4).

''He's just not there,'' Cooley said after the last game. ''He's weak, he's down, he's sad. I don't want to put someone on the floor who isn't feeling well. It's more about the bigger picture than the present.''

The Friars, however, have proved they aren't a one-man show. Ben Bentil finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds against Rider, while Jalen Lindsey (13 points, 13 boards) and Rodney Bullock (16 points, 11 rebounds) also contributed.

Kyron Cartwright had a career-high 13 points and nine assists in 39 minutes playing in Dunn's point-guard spot.

''Coach has been telling me to be more aggressive and that it will actually help open up other things for my teammates,'' Cartwright said. ''Just trying to get other people going by taking a few shots myself helps to loosen everyone else help to the point that I'm able to help them out.''

Providence could benefit more from Dunn's return on the defensive end as it prepares to face the Minutemen's three-guard attack of Trey Davis, Donte Clark and Jabarie Hinds.

Davis scored 40 points and Clark finished with 30 in Wednesday's 103-95 home win over New Orleans that snapped a three-game losing streak. Hinds was held to six - he averages 15.6 - and went 2 of 12 from the field.

UMass shot 39.9 percent in losses to Mississippi, Central Florida and Florida Gulf Coast. Davis went 15 of 57 and totaled 42 points during that stretch, prompting his mother to take an odd action that ended up helping him to refocus.

"My mom turned my phone off after the game we just lost (to FGCU last Sunday)," said Davis, who went 18 of 20 from the free-throw line after attempting 28 foul shots in his first nine combined. "She was mad and talked to me about making my free throws and turned it off. She told me to get it together. First I was mad, then I just accepted it. She just texted me, so my phone is back on now."

UMass hopes to get a boost from Texas A&M graduate transfer Antwan Space, who has been activated after sitting out due to a personal matter.

Davis had two points on 1-of-6 shooting and committed four turnovers in an 85-65 loss to Providence last season. Dunn had 16 points, 11 assists, five steals and five rebounds.

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