PROVIDENCE – If this was a boxing match, a good referee would have intervened and stopped the proceedings before things got too out of hand. It was a total mismatch right from the opening tap.
Providence College was much better than the University of Rhode Island yesterday. The Friars dominated in coasting to an impressive 87-74 triumph over the Rams before a sellout crowd of 12,410 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. PC led by a dozen in the first half before going up as many as 17 points late in the game.
PC delivered the type of performance that had URI coach Jim Baron convinced that the Friars might be better than what many people thought coming into the season. Led by speedy point guard Vincent Council, the Friars toyed with the Rams’ pressure defense to the point that Baron had no choice but to stop pressing fullcourt in the second half.
“They are a lot quicker than I anticipated,” Baron said. “They did a good job of driving and taking it to the basket.”
It was common to see Council break his defender down at the top of key, which freed him up for either layups or bounce passes to his Friar teammates positioned on the baseline. The sophomore registered his second point-assist-themed double-double of the season – 17 points and 10 points – while sprinkling in eight rebounds. Nothing, not even a cramp late in the game, could slow down Council on this day.
“We feel he can get around anybody, and that was what he was doing tonight,” said PC’s Marshon Brooks, who led all scorers with 26 points. “I play against him in practice and I know how tough it is to keep him out of the lane.”
Added PC head coach Keno Davis, “It’s very nice to play a pressing team to have a player (such as Council) that you have confidence in that you don’t have to have much game planning other than get him the ball and let him make things happen.”
Many of the recent PC-URI confrontations have featured either close, down-to-the-wire finishes or blowouts. The latter occurred Saturday as the Friars won by double figures for the first time in the series since posting a 29-point thumping back in 2006.
PC’s underclassmen played a huge role as freshmen Gerard Coleman (15 points) and Kadeem Batts (12 points) took turns in finishing off feeds from Council. Bilal Dixon provided his usual spark on the defensive end with 12 rebounds and six blocks.
The effectiveness of PC’s kiddie corps was on display when Brooks was forced to sit with three fouls at 14:38 of the second half. At the time the Friars were ahead by a comfortable margin, 56-44. Yet instead of letting the Rams back in the contest, the Friars upped the lead to 14 by the time the senior checked back in roughly two minutes later.
It was a small time to sit on the bench, but Brooks was impressed with how the Friars continued to attack in his absence.
“We did a good job,” said Brooks. “I just thought we were everywhere and played really hard.”
The Friars wasted little time in taking the Rams, now 5-3, out of their comfort zone. PC out-rebounded its opponent by a 21-13 margin in the opening half and held a 10-4 edge in fastbreak points. For the game PC made more free throws (26) than Rhody attempted (14), a clear-cut indicator that the Friars were by far and away the more aggressive team.
“They just kept playing hard,” said Delroy James, the only URI player who was able to do any sort damage, scoring 25 points.
Despite playing in foul trouble for much of the first half, James almost single-handily kept URI afloat. The swingman scored nine of his 14 first-half points in the final 7:10 as the Rams narrowed the gap to 43-39 at the half. Marquis Jones netted 10 of his 15 points in the opening 11 minutes while Daniel West (13 points) and Nikola Malesevic (10 points) also cracked double figures for Rhody.
PC started to pull away again, going up by 10 (54-44) less than five minutes into the second half. The Rams tried to make the game respectable, moving to within 67-58 with 6:39 left, but that proved as close as URI would come the rest of the way.
Davis didn’t mince words when saying his young Friars, now 8-1, took a step in the right direction on Saturday – one that can only help in building confidence for next week’s three-game slate (Monday at home against crosstown rival Brown, Wednesday at Boston College and home next Saturday to Alabama.
“It gives us momentum,” said Davis. “You expect a team that plays hard to improve, and that’s what I’m hopeful for. We’re winning right now on our effort and intensity, and hopefully we can improve in all areas.”
“The scary thing is that was our first game playing before a big crowd,” said Brooks. “I don’t know if people are seeing it, but we’re getting better each and every game.”