Kyron Cartwright showed Friars’ fans on Saturday that things will be alright after Kris Dunn leaves for the NBA. With an ailing Dunn sitting on the bench for the majority of the game, Cartwright was the floor leader and set the tempo for Providence en route to an 87-66 victory over DePaul.
DePaul came into the game with only nine victories on the season. One of those victories was against these same Friars earlier this month. It was one of the first eye-opening moments that maybe something was amiss with this Providence team. At the time, maybe the disappointing loss to DePaul could have been explained away as Providence looking ahead to a matchup against top-ranked Villanova coming up next on the schedule. Four losses in their next five games and it became obvious the problem was worse than just looking ahead.
Teams have adjusted. The word is out on Kris Dunn. Ben Bentil has done his best to step up (leads the Big East in scoring), but he is only one man. The Friars have struggled to find a third person to step up.
On Saturday, the Friars had ten different players score. Cartwright had 16 points and 8 assists. He forced the tempo and didn’t hesitate with his shot. More importantly, he hit the deck a few times chasing loose balls in the first half. The energy was a stark contrast to the overall lack of effort given by the Friars the last couple of months.
Bentil was his usual self. He scored 28 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. He hit all nine of his free throws. The concern for Friars’ fans is that Bentil has improved so much from his freshman to sophomore years that maybe he will follow Dunn to the NBA following this season. He has gotten that good. It could easily be argued that Bentil is having a better season than Dunn, who is projected to be a lottery pick.
The Friars also got significant contributions from Jalen Lindsey, Rodney Bullock, and Ryan Fazekas. Lindsey got out of a shooting funk by hitting two three-pointers. He was also more involved under the basket, scoring 14 points while going to the free throw line seven times.
The usually passive Bullock looked more aggressive on the offensive end. He showed no hesitation when given open threes, connecting on two of five. He also corralled in five rebounds.
Fazekas continued to show an improved stroke from outside. He connected on two of three three-pointers in 14 minutes on the floor.
The Friars shot 49.1% from the field. Even more impressive, they shot 27 of 30 (90%) from the free throw line. The Friars even out-rebounded DePaul, 33-28. Cooley mixed in a bit of full court pressure, utilizing the likes of little-used Tyree Chambers and freshman Drew Edwards to try and create some havoc.
The Friars (20-9) try to finish off the regular season strong with two remaining games– against Creighton (18-11) at home and, on the road, at St. John’s (8-22). Providence will look to cement their NCAA hopes with two more wins, which would give them a solid ten wins in the Big East. Providence plays Creighton at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Wednesday at 9 p.m.