August 3, 2020

Men’s Basketball Up to No. 15 in the Nation: Friars Scale the National Rankings After 74-72 Win Over Rival URI

posted on: Sunday December 27, 2015

by Bryan Blum ’17

Senior Staff Writer

Late in the second half  against Hartford, there was no real reason for Kris Dunn ’17RS to be in the game. The rest of the starters had already ended their evening early, as the game was already well in hand. Everyone in the crowd, however, was waiting for just one more play from the National Player of the Year candidate, and with an inconspicuous defensive rebound they got it. On the next whistle, Dunn finally left the game to a round of applause as the posters told the truth; he had “got it Dunn.” The final stat line for Dunn: 16 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. A triple-double.

“Honestly I wanted to take him out of the game,” Head Coach Cooley said after the game. “He asked me to stick with him and believe in him. He’s very unique, a stat-stuffer. I’m really, really proud of him. He really gets us going when he plays at that level.”

Fortunately for the 15th ranked Friars, he has been playing at that level for most of the season. Coming in with high expectations, Dunn somehow may have surpassed them in the first eight games of the season.

With the only loss this season coming in a hard-fought game against the No. 1 team in the country, Michigan State, Dunn has shown why he is a top pick in next year’s draft. So far this season Dunn has led the team in points per game and assists per game, averaging 18.2 and 7.3 respectively. He is third on the team in rebounding, averaging 6.4 per game. He is also second in the country with 3.6 steals per game.

As the Washington Post put it, “The junior is the nation’s best point guard, and the gap between Dunn and other points isn’t even that close.”

Yes, Friar nation is thrilled that Dunn decided to return for one more year. Because Dunn has confirmed his spot as one of the best players in the country and will have finished his degree after this year, it is pretty certain that this will be the last season that he will don a Friars uniform despite having one year of eligibility remaining.

The fact that Dunn returned even for this year was a surprise to everyone, including his own family.

“If it was me, I would have come out,” John Seldon, Dunn’s father, admits. “I would have taken the money and been gone so quick, but I couldn’t tell him that. I left it up to him.”

Even Cooley did not think he would have his star point guard this season. As he told the redshirt junior, “Kris, if you were my son, I’d probably have you go to the NBA.”

But that did not happen. And after starting the season unranked, the team earned six straight wins, and which can certainly be attributed in part to Dunn—especially in the upset win over then No. 11 Arizona, in which he scored the last 10 points in the 69-65 victory.

And while it would be easy to say that Dunn is the only reason the Friars are doing as well as they are, a closer look would prove that to be incorrect. Helping Dunn in the supporting cast are the two starting forwards: Ben Bentil ’18 and Rodney Bullock ’18RS.

Bentil continues the dominance that he had shown at the end of last year, averaging 17.9 points per game—second behind Dunn this year—and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Bentil is the exact opposite and perfect complement for the future lottery pick. Dunn controls the perimeter; Bentil dominates the inside. Dunn is a smooth, fluid dribbler and distributor; Bentil is physical and strong as a post player. Most surprisingly, however, Dunn is shooting 24 percent from three point range and Bentil is shooting 32 percent from three.

Bullock is another player who scores many of his points in the paint, and after not playing for two seasons he is showing why he was so touted coming out of high school. Averaging 13.7 points per game along with 6.7 rebounds, Bullock is a speedy perimeter player that is not afraid to be physical down low.

The best players after Dunn may be on the inside, but there is also serious talent on the outside. Ryan Fazekas ’19 has averaged 47.2 percent from behind the arc so far this season. To put that in perspective, Stephen Curry currently has a 47.2 percent from three. Also on the outside is Jalen Lindsey ’18, who is only shooting 33 percent from three, but began to find his form against Hartford, hitting 4-6 threes including three on three consecutive possessions.

Rounding out the seven man rotation for Coach Cooley is Junior Lomomba ’17, who has improved greatly on the offensive end to add to his already strong defensive abilities, and Kyron Cartwright ’18, who will most likely take over for Dunn as point guard after this season.

There is no sign of slowing down this season for the very young and athletic players who are currently putting themselves in a good position to return for a third straight time to the NCAA Tournament. They have faced quality opponents before Big East play begins, and most recently they were able to defeat the University of Rhode Island 74-72 with a thrilling last second tip-in by Bentil.

The Associated Press clearly noticed this game, as the Friars moved to No. 15 in the latest AP poll. Despite their early season success, the most difficult part of the season is yet to come with conference play rapidly approaching. With Dunn at the helm and a solid group surrounding him, this season the Providence Friars  might be able to get a lot more “Dunn” than anyone ever imagined going into the season.

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