For a Providence team that aspires to greatness, Tuesday’s loss to the DePaul Blue Demons was absolutely unacceptable by any standard. There is simply no excuse for that sort of performance.
Providence came into the game ranked 11th in the nation. DePaul? Well, they weren’t ranked. Far from it. The Blue Demons came into the game with a 7-14 record. They had won only one of their eight Big East matchups. This was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Friars before their much-anticipated matchup on Saturday against 3rd-ranked Villanova.
This had been a magical season until about 10 o’clock Tuesday night. That is around the time Ben Bentil crumbled into a heap after rolling his ankle. Bentil leads the Big East in scoring, averaging 19.7 points per game. The Friars were down five with 10:19 remaining in the half when Bentil got hurt. Even still, the Friars, with Kris Dunn, had ample time and talent to beat DePaul.
Kris Dunn, however, had an off night. He hit only five of his twenty field goal attempts. He missed the front end of two critical one-and-one free throw attempts at the end of the game. He was careless with the basketball, which has been his weakness.
Without Bentil on the court and with Dunn unable to score, the Friars had no answers. The one bright spot was freshman Ryan Fazekas who appeared to finally have found his outside shooting touch. Fazekas had only hit three three-pointers in his seven games since returning from a bout with mono. Fazekas hit three three-pointers Tuesday night. The Friars didn’t do a good enough job finding him more often.
“DePaul out-toughed us and out-rebounded us by a large margin,” coach Ed Cooley said following the game. “We didn’t bring it like we need to. They deserved to win.” And Providence deserved to lose.
DePaul out-rebounded Providence, 48-24. DePaul shot 49.2% from the field. Senior Myke Henry led DePaul with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
The Friars, actually, shot well from outside for a change. They hit 9-of-22 from three-point range behind Fazekas’ 3-of-6 shooting. They just couldn’t overcome all the extra possessions DePaul got for themselves thanks to their 18 offensive rebounds.
“I was upset with our effort and our level of concentration,” Cooley said. “We weren’t very poised at the end or very disciplined. You have to be prepared to play.”
That’s right, and that is on Cooley. He prides himself on keeping the team loose, but sometimes they might be too loose. This team needs more discipline. They need more on-court leadership. That is the problem with a team with no seniors.
This is where Kris Dunn needs to show his NBA-worthiness. There is no doubt Dunn has the talent. Now is the time to prove he has the mental toughness.