Kris Dunn has gotten all the attention and it is deservedly so. Dunn is a Player of the Year candidate. The odds are he will be a lottery pick in the NBA draft next season. Dunn, Dunn, Dunn. It’s enough to make you think no one else plays for the Providence College Friars.
Not so fast. Sophomore power forward Ben Bentil has been trying all year to get people to pay attention to him with his play on the court. Kris Dunn is second in the Big East in scoring, averaging 17 points per game. Who is first, you ask? Ben Bentil. He is averaging 19.8 points per game. But that still hasn’t been enough to get him noticed, nationally.
That may be all about to change following a 31-point, 13-rebound against the fourth-ranked Villanova Wildcats. It’s the second time Bentil has scored more than 30 points in a game this season. He scored 32 points against UMass on December 21.
The Friars have been in a bit of a funk this month. Maybe it had something to do with Providence being ranked in the top ten for the first time since any of these players were born. Maybe Providence needed to be the underdog again. Somewhere along the way the Friars lost their heart and soul.
But they found their heart and soul again in Philadelphia over a snowy weekend which saw Saturday’s game postponed to Sunday. Providence came out revitalized. There was movement on offense again. There was the tenacious defense that the under-sized Cooley-era Friars have been known for. They crashed the boards. They dove for loose balls. They, actually, made some three-pointers.
Kris Dunn played the role more of a distributor, dishing out 14 assists while only taking ten shots. Dunn did hit a critical NBA-range three-pointer late in the game. Ben Bentil, by comparison, took 19 shots on his way to his monster line of 31 points and 13 rebounds.
Kyron Cartwright (13 points), Rodney Bullock (8 points, 5 rebounds), and Junior Lomomba (12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) all made significant contributions. Players’ roles are coming more into focus. Lomomba is the scrapper. Cartwright is the energizer. Bullock is the garbage man.
Villanova, led by senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono’s 19 points, forced the game into overtime. Arcidiacono has always been a thorn in Providence’s side. He was again on Sunday– draining a three-pointer on Villanova’s final possession to send the game to overtime.
Villanova’s loss snapped a 22-game Big East winning streak as well as a 32-game home winning streak. The win improved Providence’s road record to 5-0.
Providence’s overall record improved to 17-3. When the rankings were announced on Monday, the Friars found themselves back in the top ten… at number ten. Providence next plays Tuesday night at home against seventh-ranked Xavier at the Dunkin Donuts’ Center at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are going fast.