Ben Bentil and Kris Dunn scored 26 points apiece to lead the No. 10 Providence College Friars over the Georgetown Hoyas, 73-69, before 14,481 fans at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, on Saturday night. L.J. Peak led the Hoyas with 19 points, while D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the Hoyas’ leading scorer, added 18. Bradley Hayes added a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards for Georgetown.
While Dunn and Bentil are arguably the two best players in the Big East, Providence has been challenged to find a third player to step up on a consistent basis. On Saturday, at least, it was Rodney Bullock, the 6-8, 225-pound sophomore forward from Hampton, Va., chipped in with a double-double (10 points, 14 rebounds). Sophomore guard Kyron Cartwright added six points, six assists and three boards.
Georgetown threw a 3-2 zone at Providence, which shot just 31 percent in 75-68 loss to Xavier at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center last Tuesday, and it gave the Friars fits early in the game. The Friars missed their first six shots from the floor, and didn’t get on the board until Bentil drained a trey 3:10 into the contest. Dunn soon followed with a three-pointer with 14:08 remaining in the half. Dunn, the former New London High star and defending Big East Player of the Year, is one of only five players to score 15 or more points, haul down five or more boards, dish out five or more assists, and record three or more steals in the past 15 years. He is, however, the only player to do it on an elite level. All four other players to accomplish this feat played in mid-major conferences.
After a late first-half 11-2 run gave the Friars a 38-28 lead at intermission, Providence built its largest lead of the game, 42-30, on a layup by Junior Lomomba two and a-half minutes into the second stanza and looked to be off to the races. But not so fast. The Hoyas stormed back with a 13-2 run of their own to cut Providence’s lead to one, 44-43, with 13:33 remaining in regulation.
But the Friars, currently ranked No. 10 in the country by both major ratings services, regained control of the game, and a three-pointer by 6-0 sophomore guard Kyron Cartwright (six points, six assists) off a gorgeous feed from Dunn put Providence up by a seemingly comfortable nine points with 2:25 left. However, the Hoyas, who went on a 15-3 run in the last 2:17 minutes of play to pull out a 75-73 win over Creighton on Tuesday in this same building, wasn’t done on Saturday, either. A three-point jumper by Smith-Rivera cut the Providence lead to two, 71-69, with seven ticks left in regulation. A quick foul sent Bentil to the line, and Big Ben, who sank six straight free throws down the stretch, calmly drained two from the charity stripe to give Providence a four-point lead with five seconds remaining in the contest. A desperation three-point attempt by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera missed the mark with one second left, and the Friars escaped with their lives.
“How many steals did Dunn have, four?” asked said Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. “It felt like 12. He’s a one-man wrecking crew on defense,” adding that Dunn “may be the best guard that’s come through this league in a long time.” And that’s an incredible compliment, considering The Big East has produced Allen Iversen, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Chris Mullin, and Dwayne Pearl Washington, among many, many others. None, however, were able to garner conference Player of the Year accolades until Dunn did it last season.
What makes Dunn a strong National Player of the Year candidate isn’t just his scoring ability—including his knack of draining key three-pointers at the most opportune times—but that he contributes in every way a player can, from grabbing key rebounds to cutting down passing lanes and making important steals. His biggest weakness is his tendency to get into foul trouble, which often puts him on the bench late in the second half. Such was not the case on Saturday, however, as Dunn picked up just two fouls vs. Georgetown, and his ability to play without worrying about being sent to the pines paid huge dividends against the Hoyas.
“I just do what the team needs me to do,” said the pride and joy of New London, who spent the first 10 years of his life growing up in nearby Alexandria, Va., before coming to Connecticut. “If that’s to play defense, I’m going to do that, if it’s getting everybody involved, I’m going to do that.”
After a disheartening loss 75-68 to No. 7/8 Xavier last week at The Dunk (where the Friars are 10-3 as opposed to a perfect 6-0 on the road), Providence head coach Ed Cooley was happy with his team’s effort against the Hoyas.
“Another Big East war on the road,” he said. “I tried to get the players locked in after a tough home loss [to Xavier]. I thought we played with some desperation. We wanted to try to be more aggressive going to the basket.”
Next up for the Friars will be a trip to Rosemont, Ill., where they will take on the DePaul Blue Demons on Tues., Feb. 2. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. (ET), and the game will be televised on Fox Sport 1. Georgetown, which falls into a third-place tie in The Big East standings with Providence (6-3, 13-9 overall), will take on the 4-6, 14-7 Butler Bulldogs on Tuesday in Indianapolis. Butler had been ranked in the Top 20 for much of the season, but fell out of the rankings last week. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. (ET) on Fox Sports 1.