Under coach Ed Cooley, Providence has rattled off four consecutive 20-win seasons and trips to the NCAA Tournament, and expectations were high again this season with five returning starters, but Cooley is not pleased with his team. After dropping a second non-conference game to an Atlantic-10 foe in a week, the Friars have had a week off to digest their coach’s concerns as they prepare for a visit from Stony Brook on Sunday.
Despite losing senior center Emmitt Holt for the season with an abdominal injury, the Friars’ lone loss in their first seven games was to a solid Minnesota team, but that was before Rhode Island toppled Providence 75-68 on Dec. 2, and after a win against cross-town foe Brown, the Friars were stopped by Massachusetts 72-63 on Dec. 9. “I think I’ve done a couple things wrong coaching this team,” Cooley said. “First and foremost is being too nice. I think we’ve coddled our players to a point where now I’m coaching a soft team, and that’s the one thing I hate to be. Right now, our guys are not giving what we need to be the successful team that we want to be. I love our team to death. I love them as young men. But this is a great growing experience for us. This has been coming.” Senior forward Rodney Bullock continued his solid play with 15 points and seven rebounds against the Minutemen, but the Friars allowed UMass to shoot 56.3 percent from the field - the highest by an opponent in more than 11 months. Stony Brook, picked to finish fourth in the preseason America East poll, is coming off an 84-81 loss to Hofstra despite a career-high 22 points from Jaron Cornish as well as 20 and six 3-pointers from Bryan Sekunda.
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ABOUT STONY BROOK (4-7): Cornish, a 5-11 junior college transfer from Broward (Fla.) CC, has scored in double figures in four straight games to lift his average to 11.3 points to go with a team-leading four assists per game. Sophomore forward Akwasi Yeboah (13.2 points) leads the team in scoring and adds 4.5 rebounds, and the sophomore has improved his 3-point shooting from 34 to 41 percent. Sekunda, a 6-6 senior who has battled knee problems throughout his career, is shooting 53.1 percent beyond the arc this year, a distance that 72 percent of his shots are taken.
ABOUT PROVIDENCE (7-3): With second-leading scorer Alpha Diallo (11.4 points, five rebounds per game) and reserve guard Maliek White (6.1 points, 47 percent 3-pointers) out with injuries, Bullock (15.1 points, 6.6 rebounds) didn’t get much help against the Minutemen, as senior Jalen Lindsey (8.6 points) was the only other player in double figures with 11 points. Point guard Kyron Cartwright (9.5 points, 6.3 assists) was held to five points on 2-of-11 shooting, although he did hand out eight assists. Cooley was hoping for a big year from Lindsey, but despite knocking down 22-of-41 shots from the arc, the 6-7, 230-pounder is averaging two points fewer per game.
1. Providence beat Stony Brook 79-61 on Dec. 13, 2014, in the only meeting between the schools.
2. The Friars have connected on 70-of -166 attempts from the arc for a 42.2 percent mark - tops in the Big East.
3. The Friars’ reserves is outscoring their opponents’ bench 275-128. Bench scoring has accounted for 35.6 percent of the Friars’ 773 points this season.
PREDICTION: Providence 81, Stony Brook 63