PROVIDENCE — Call it a solid first step for Ed Cooley and his new-look Providence Friars.
On a night that saw freshman Kris Dunn make an immediate impact, Providence overwhelmed Colgate, 79-45, before 6,033 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. A point guard who on Tuesday night displayed an uncanny knack in finding his teammates, Dunn tossed 13 assists on his way to becoming the first PC player to reach double figures in said category in his first game with the program.
It goes without saying that with Dunn at the controls, Providence will become a much more efficient unit on the offensive end. Junior Bryce Cotton no longer has to worry about running the point in addition to hoisting up shots, witnessed by the game-high 21 points he finished with on 7-of-14 shooting.
Another Friar who logged considerable minutes at the point-guard spot during the first-semester portion of the schedule was freshman Josh Fortune. Playing more off the ball seemed to agree with the guard Tuesday as Fortune poured in 17 points. Fortune and Cotton combined to swish eight of PC’s 11 3-pointers.
“Josh is a shot maker and having him and Cotton on the floor together, you’ve kind of got to pick your poison of who you’re going to help off of,” said Cooley.
To Cotton, the Friars have much to be thankful for now that Dunn is finally in the fold after the New London, Conn. product missed considerable time following right shoulder surgery.
“Kris is a very unselfish point guard and that benefits everybody,” said Cotton. “I wouldn’t say it’s a relief for me to handle the ball less, but it’s always better to have more people who can somewhat take the load off.”
While Dunn was in a generous mood en route to becoming the fourth Providence freshman in school history to pass for at least 13 assists in a single game, his scoring touch was amiss – 3-of-13 in 27 minutes. Dunn received a nice ovation when he checked in at 16:35 of the opening half before Cooley elected to have the first-year Friar on the floor as the second half got underway.
“I wasn’t nervous because I knew my teammates were going to pick me up,” stated Dunn. “Luckily I was able to move the ball and my teammates were able to hit shots.”
Asked if he was surprised to finish with such a high assist total, Dunn replied, “Yeah, I guess. I wasn’t keeping track.”
Amidst the hoopla surrounding Dunn’s debut, sophomore forward Sidiki Johnson made his presence felt with four points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 16 points. Johnson was part of a PC frontline that completely engulfed Colgate as the Friars won the rebounding battle going away, 48-32.
“I thought our size bothered them in the interior with Sidiki, (Brice) Kofane, (Kadeem) Batts and (LaDontae) Henton,” noted Cooley. “Sidiki is a physical presence in there. I love him; he’s a big teddy bear.”
The Friars fell behind 14-9 before the curtain was pulled back and Cooley summoned Dunn and Johnson off the bench. What ensued was complete and utter domination as Providence blitzed Colgate with a 17-2 run to seize control. PC led 39-28 at the break before beginning the second half with three consecutive triples – one by Dunn and two off the fingertips of Cotton.
With exactly 10 minutes remaining, the Friars (8-2) were on autopilot, up 65-32. Henton finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Batts contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
“As hard as we practice, some guys take on a different personality under the bright lights,” said Cooley when asked about the benefits of developing chemistry in game settings as opposed to practice. “You need game time to develop game chemistry.”
The Friars now embark on a three-game road swing that commences this Saturday at Boston College with stops at Brown (Dec. 28) and Louisville (Jan. 2) along the way.