Providence defeated NJIT 64-63 yesterday in the opening game of the season. Here are some links around the web.
Coach Ed Cooley said Council will have an MRI Sunday, and indicated that he is unlikely to play in the Friars’ upcoming matchup against Bryant on Monday.
The Friars are now down to just six academically eligible scholarship players, with Cooley describing his team as “the walking wounded.”
With Council out, Cotton was forced to take over as the floor general for Providence.
“I knew I had to work on my ball-handling,” Cotton said. “That was a major focus over the summertime.”
Henton started the second half with a quick lay-up to bring his point total up to 20. The Friars extended their lead to 10 points within six minutes of the start of the second half, their highest lead of the game. NJIT chipped away at the Friars’ lead and took the lead with a three-point basket from Chris Flores with 4:13 left in the game, 63-62. NJIT’s Flores finished the game tied his career high of 28 points. The Friars tied the game with a made free throw by Cotton with 2:19 remaining in the game. Cotton again was sent to the free throw line with 5.1 seconds left in the game. Cotton’s made free throw put the Friars up, 64-63. NJIT’s PJ Miller took a deep three at the buzzer that missed to give the Friars the win.
“I’m really happy with the effort of our guys today. We showed resiliency and heart,” said Highlanders Head Coach Jim Engles, who was selected as GWC Preseason Coach of the Year by College Sports Madness. “We also had great individual efforts by Chris [Flores] and Ryan [Woods] that put us in position to win the game.”
The dramatic finish overshadowed the performance of senior Chris Flores, who tied his own NJIT Division I record by scoring a game-high 28 points – the final three of which came on the 21-foot jumper that gave the Highlanders their first lead since holding a 27-25 edge in the first half. Flores previously tallied 28 points at Houston Baptist on Feb. 17, 2011, to tie the initial record set just five days earlier by Jheryl Wilson ’11 vs. South Dakota on Feb. 12, 2011.
Thanks to a solid defensive effort led by Cotton, Henton, Brice Kofane, Lee Goldsbrough and Kadeem Batts, the Friars had plenty of chances to put the game away…and yet could not come up with a clinching score on the other end. The final two points of the game were both scored by Cotton, from the free throw line in four attempts, to provide the winning margin. But just barely.
As such, the Friars opened their season with a win for the 11th time in the past 12 years, but it might have come with a price tag attached. Time will tell just how expensive that cost might be.
I spoke to Henton after the game, asking if he was ready to lead this team long term if Council’s injury forced him to miss an extended period of time. Henton told me that while he was a vocal player, and every player needed to contribute in Council’s absence, Vincent was the leader of this team, whether from the bench or on the floor and would continue to be regardless of the status of his injury.
Because of the hamstring injury to star point guard Vincent Council injury, Cooley says he’s holding an emergency walk-on tryout for a walk-on on Sunday at Alumni Hall. He’s hoping someone on campus played high school basketball, can handle the ball a bit and wants to help the cause this season. Right now the Friars have just one eligible walk-on (Ted Bancroft) and they need more.
“I just hope there’s somebody out there who had that dream of one day being on the team. That’s the guy I need,” Cooley said.
Honestly? Providence isn’t too scary even with Council, but a lingering hamstring injury suffered in the first game is the worst way for a senior year to get started, and it won’t help Ed Cooley’s Friars find a much-needed cohesive identity, either.
LaDontae Henton was terrific in the first half, scoring 18 of Providence’s 32 points, as the Friars led 32-29 heading into the locker room. Just how essential was Henton early? He made seven of Providence’s 11 field goals in the first 20 minutes.
It wasn’t a perfect afternoon for the sophomore, who missed on seven of his eight three point attempts, but he was perfect from the free throw line, finished with a team-leading 24, and made perhaps the defensive play of the game when he blocked an 18 footer with the game tied at 63 with 1:05 on the clock.