Saturday night in-state rivals No. 23 Providence and Rhode Island met in Kingston, and as many expected the game did not disappoint. The Friars got off to a quick start only to see the Rams respond with a 20-4 run, and from that point onward the two Ocean State teams traded punches throughout in a game that was decided as time expired by Providence forward Ben Bentil.
Following a Jared Terrell jumper with 6.2 seconds remaining Providence point guard raced up the court, releasing a shot attempt with enough time to allow Bentil to tip in the miss just before time expired. The game-winner capped a 23-point, eight-rebound night for Bentil, who to this point in the season has not only been one of the Big East’s most improved players but one of the most improved players in the country as a whole.
Terrell led four Rams in double figures with 19 points.
Video credit: ESPN
As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best
Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.
And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.
With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.
Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.
The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.
The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.
The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.
There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.
But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.
Looking Forward: Potential Breakout Stars in 2015-16
With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.
Today, we’re Looking Forward at potential breakout stars:
Grayson Allen, Duke: The argument could be make that Allen has already broken out. That’s what happens when a freshman goes from struggling to get off of Duke’s bench to being arguably their most important player in a come-from-behind win in the national title game. Allen is going to once again have his work cut out for him getting playing time — that’s what happens when three five-star perimeter players join the program — but he should be Coach K’s best slasher next season.
Malik Pope, San Diego State: Pope’s tools are off the charts. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing with length, athleticism and three-point range. He finally got healthy midway through his freshman season, and proceeded to put together a handful of dominant performances for the Aztecs last season. If he adds some strength, improves his consistency and — most importantly — stays healthy, we could be looking at a lottery pick.
Isaac Copeland, Georgetown: Copeland is such a skilled forward. In addition to being 6-foot-8 and athletic, Copeland is the kind of versatile offensive talent that usually thrives under John Thompson III. With the Hoyas losing Josh Smith and Mikael Hopkins, there are going to be front court minutes for the taking.
Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame: Jackson flashed some of his ability during last year’s NCAA tournament, but the fact of the matter is that the talented and athletic point guard was the fourth-best player on the Irish as a sophomore. Don’t be surprised to see him become an all-american as a junior as he takes over Jerian Grant’s role.
Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl could have been a lottery pick had he decided to go to the NBA this spring. Instead, Larry Krystkowiak will have a chance to work his magic with the Austrian big man for an entire offseason. Poeltl’s potential is very high, and while he was inconsistent as a freshman, Poeltl was fantastic in the month of March.
Marcus Lee, Kentucky: Will Marcus Lee finally get his chance this season? The former top 30 recruit has proven to be effective in the limited minutes that he has played the last two season, but his minutes have been understandably limited during his time in Lexington. He may not be Willie Cauley-Stein or Karl Towns, but Lee should be an excellent sidekick to Skal Labissiere in Kentucky’s front court.
Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin: Koenig was brilliant when he got the chance to replace the injured Traevon Jackson as Bo Ryan’s primary point guard midway through the season. With the Badgers losing so much this offseason, Koenig and Nigel Hayes will be tasked with keeping the Badgers in the Big Ten’s top four.
Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart is the typical power wing that Jay Wright has been so successsful with over the years. He’s a better scorer than he gets credit for and is a terrific defender and offensive rebounder. Hart should end up being an all-Big East player this season.
Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Brooks reclassified in the spring and enrolled at Oregon a year earlier than initially expected, and it ended up being fantastic for Dana Altman, as Brooks was, at times, Oregon’s best player. Expect more of the same from him as a sophomore.
Jonathan Motley, Baylor: Motley was just a three-star recruit when he arrived in Waco, but the athletic, 6-foot-10 center had some truly dominating performances during the year. Motley, teaming with Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince, will give the Bears one of the nation’s best front lines.
Ben Bentil, Providence: Bentil was fantastic for the Friars for stretches late in the season, and with LaDontae Henton graduating, there will shots and rebounds available for Bentil to collect.
Providence freshman forward, a top 100 recruit, is cleared to play this season
Last Friday, hours before Late Night Madness, Providence head coach Ed Cooley only wanted to mention Ben Bentil’s status briefly, as he continued to wait for a decision regarding his freshman forward’s eligibility.
“He was cleared and we’re excited to move forward with him,” Cooley told McNamara. “He was excited. He was elated.”
According to McNamara, the school’s compliance department needed to look into Bentil’s academic background. Bentil grew up in Ghana before attending high school in the United States at the St. Andrew’s School (Delaware), the prestigious boarding school best known as the setting for the 1989 drama, Dead Poet’s Society.
Adding Bentil to this year’s roster will be a lift for the Friars, who nine days ago lost wing Rodney Bullock for the season due to a torn ACL.
Bentil was listed as a four-star recruit by Rivals, one of three top 100 recruits Cooley brought to the state of Rhode Island with wing Jalen Lindsey and center Paschal Chukwu being the other two. The incoming class was rounded out with point guard Kyron Cartwright and Cleveland State transfer guard Junior Lomomba. The 7-foot-2 Chukwu and Bentil, the physical forward, join a frontline that includes LaDontae Henton, Tyler Harris and Carson Desrosiers.
Providence was voted fifth in the Big East preseason poll on Wednesday, although, after Villanova — voted as the unanimous favorite — there is plenty of uncertainty to go around the rest of the league. The inside presence of Bentil (as well as contributions from fellow newcomers), along with the recovery of Kris Dunn could help Providence defy those preseason projections and position itself for a return to the NCAA tournament.
The Friars open the season on Nov. 15 against Albany.
Ed Cooley continues to load up on talent in the Class of 2014 as the Providence head coach today earned a commitment from Ben Bentil, a 6-foot-8 forward from St. Andrew’s (DE).
Bentil, who tweeted out his decision on Monday afternoon, picked the Friars over Temple and Miami, among others.
Bentil is a powerful, 6-foot-8 forward that ranks 81st in the Class of 2014, according to Rivals. He’s got the strength and athleticism to play in the post in the Big East, and he plays a tough, physical brand of basketball. His skill level is slowly improving as well, as he can handle the ball a little bit and knock down a jumper, with time and space, out to about 17 or 18 feet.
Cooley is putting together quite a class in 2014. Bentil joins 7-foot-1 Pascal Chukwu and 6-foot-7 wing Jalen Lindsay, all of whom should fit in quite well playing together. Bentil’s physicality should compliment the lithe Chukwu, while Lindsay is a wing known for his versatility.
The future is bright for the Friars, as Cooley has completely overhauled the talent in his program. Providence has a chance to make the NCAA tournament this season, although with the likes of juniors LeDontae Henton and Carson Desrosiers, sophomore Tyler Harris and a now-healthy Kris Dunn, and freshman Brandon Austin scheduled to be back, they may be better in 2014-2015.