PROVIDENCE — Marshon Brooks has never been accused of being shy with the basketball. Yet in order for him to complete player in the eyes of Keno Davis, the Providence College senior had to show a serious commitment to rebounding the basketball.
Brooks delivered another banner night scoring-wise, notching a season-best 27 points as PC held off visiting Northeastern, 77-72, Wednesday night before yet another sparse gathering of 4,828 at The Dunk. Just as important were the eight rebounds Brooks snatched, as he came close to matching his season average (8.7).
A player who in his time at Providence has been branded a player who scores points and also gives them up, Brooks has set out to become more of a well-rounded sort. Through eight games he’s pulled down 10 or more rebounds four times. Considering he entered the season without a double figure rebounding game to his credit, Brooks has caught everyone’s attention.
“I told him I wouldn’t play him as many minutes as he wanted if he didn’t rebound,” said Davis, PC’s coach. “We’re sliding him from the small forward to the power forward and just trying to find minutes for him, but I can’t do that if he’s pulling in four or five rebounds. He’s got to be upwards in the neighborhood of eight rebounds, so for him to be in that margin more times than not, that’s allowed him to get some shots.”
On a Friar team that’s loaded with young players still trying to find their way, Brooks is quickly finding out that how the team fares on a game-to-game basis largely depends on him. With Providence clinging to a four-point lead with less than two minutes remaining, Brooks found himself isolated on the right wing, holding the ball while gazing at the clock. There was still plenty of time on the shot clock when Brooks released a deep 3-pointer at 1:19. The shot, however, was pure and gave the Friars some breathing room at 72-67.
“I could have eased up, but that would have been the easy way out,” said Brooks when informed he still had the luxury of running off precious seconds off the game clock. “Sometimes shots are not going to fall, but I’m always going to play hard.”
Vincent Council, who aided the Friars’ cause with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, has noticed a much different Brooks.
“He’s waiting for the game to come to him and has more confidence in himself,” said the Friar sophomore.
The dagger by Brooks helped close out a night in which the Friars (7-1) once again struggled to put forth a complete 40-minute effort. Northeastern was ready right from the tap while Providence wasn’t, which resulted in the Huskies opening up an 11-point lead with not even eight minutes gone by. It marked the second straight game in which Providence eased its way into the fray after struggling in the early going against Central Connecticut on Monday. Davis tried to shake things up by trotting out different lineups – seldom used Ray Hall and Lee Goldsbrough checked in for brief stretches late in the opening half – but nothing seemed to phase the Huskies.
“I wish I knew, quite honestly,” was Davis’ response. “We tried to energize our team with different guys, but I thought Northeastern did a good job in executing its offense and hitting shots, and it seemed to drain us a little bit.”
The Friars were able to regroup late in the first half to trail by just 37-35 at halftime. Providence took an early lead in the second half but Northeastern regained its footing to go up 49-43. Then, just like in Monday’s eventual romp against Central Connecticut, PC responded on both ends of the floor. The Friars blitzed the visitors with a 22-5 run in the most crucial time of the game to go up 65-56 at the 5:28 mark.
Just as importantly, the Friars got stingy on the defensive end. After shooting 50 percent in the opening 20 minutes, the Huskies went through a stretch in the second half in which nothing seemed to work. Some of the credit goes to sophomore Bilal Dixon, who swatted away five shots to go along with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“Again, there was a confidence in the locker room that we had just been in this situation on Monday night,” said Davis. “We didn’t feel the pressure as much.”
The Huskies, led by Chase Allen’s 24 points, stayed within striking distance and cut PC’s lead to 69-65 with 1:52 left after a Joel Smith 3-pointer. That’s as close as Northeastern would come the rest of the way.
“We’ve got to do a better job (of not falling behind early). I’ve got to do a better job of hyping them up in the locker room or something like that,” said Brooks. “When you play the better teams, it’s going to be tough to come back.”
Now the Friars set their sights on Saturday’s showdown with state rival Rhode Island.
“I know most people will pick URI to beat us, but we’re going to come in and do our best and see if we can get a win,” said Davis.