PROVIDENCE — It’s very good to be Marshon Brooks these days.
To the Providence College senior, the basket must seem as large and as inviting as Narragansett Bay on a summer’s day. The prodigious scoring outputs are quickly becoming a regular feature, as Saturday saw Brooks once again torch the strings with great frequency.
PC made a hard push to the finish line in an 82-70 triumph over Alabama at The Dunk because Brooks took control of the offense down the stretch. That is, he shouldered the load. Finishing with a career-tying 33 points is one thing, but scoring 14 points in the final 12 minutes with the outcome still up for grabs is the stamp the swingman placed on his latest scoring spree.
At that point the Friars were nursing a 59-57 lead over their SEC opponent. The Crimson Tide went up 61-59 at 9:22, but that’s when Brooks ratcheted things up. A mixture of jump shots and aggressive drives to the rim helped put PC up 71-64 after Brooks swished home a 3-pointer at the six-minute mark. That capped off an avalanche of a sequence in which the Georgia native was responsible for nine of his team’s 12 points.
“He put his team on his back today,” was Alabama’s JaMychal Green’s way of tipping his cap to Brooks. “He’s a tough player to guard. Kudos. He just had a great game.”
Brooks finished the day shooting 9-of-18 from the floor to go along with eight rebounds. What had head coach Keno Davis raving afterwards was that his top playmaker got to the foul line 16 times, making 13. Conversely Alabama went to the charity stripe 15 times for the entire game.
“Marshon is getting better before everyone’s eyes. I think it’s taken him time to realize that he doesn’t have to make the spectacular play every time. He’s so talented that the higher percentage play is good enough,” said Davis. “On a night in which Vincent Council struggled, we had to rely on him for a lot of the scoring. That’s a credit to him to understand that and to make better and better moves.”
You only have to go back to Monday against Brown to find Brooks’ previous 33-point outburst. He entered Saturday as the Big East’s second leading scorer, his 22-point average trailing UConn’s Kemba Walker (28 ppg). Asked how much confidence he’s playing with, Brooks quickly answered, “As much as I ever have.”
While Brooks saved his best for last, the Friars were also buoyed by a strong performance from Gerard Coleman. The freshman notched 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting with six rebounds. With Council suffering through a rare off game – 2-of-10 for eight points and seven assists – the contributions provided by Coleman were most welcome by Davis and the Friars.
A 21 percent shooter from the 3-point stripe coming in, Coleman burned the Tide for a key trey with seven minutes remaining, a shot that gave the Friars some breathing room at 68-61. The Boston product added a few mid-range jumpers in keeping with Davis’ mantra of players making improvements as the season progresses.
“He’s got just so much talent out there and has a chance to be a very special player,” raved Davis. “Not many first-year players get a chance to start in the Big East. Only the truly special ones do, and he’s one of those guys.”
The game started out back-and-forth as the teams went into halftime tied at 40 apiece. High-flying forward Tony Mitchell paced Alabama with 15 points in the first half, though he managed just five in the second half on his way to collecting 20 points. Green, playing in his first game back after a three-game suspension, added 15 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Alabama jumped out to leads of 49-44 and 53-48 early in the second half before the Friars clawed back. A spinning drive in the lane by Council and a 3-point play from Brooks erased the deficit before Alabama made what turns out it’s last stand of the game with still nine minutes to go. PC then hit Alabama (4-5) with a dizzying 19-3 run that allowed the Friars to go up 78-64 late and seal up the team’s 10th win in 12 games.
“I liked the fight we showed after the Boston College loss,” said Brooks.
“My mind was thinking back to the BC game (when PC was up 62-61 on ‘Bama with 7:44 left),” said Coleman. “We didn’t want to wait until the last minute to make a comeback.”
RIM RATTLERS: Saturday’s attendance was announced at 8,056, which was PC’s second-highest total after the URI game. … The Crimson Tide became just the second team this season to out-rebound the Friars, 38-37. … Providence is now off until Dec. 21 for exams, which start up on Monday. “I am,” said Coleman when asked if he’s ready for a break from basketball after opening the season with 12 games in 29 days. “Study, rest and practice and get ready for Sacred Heart (on the 21st).”