Game #9-137: Rhode Island at Providence FriarsDecember 6, 2012 7:00 pm
Dunkin Donuts Center
PROVIDENCE, R.I.- After paying $10 to give my car a rest at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, I could obviously use a lark, and the sight of the University
of Rhode Island cheerleaders following me out of the parking lot certainly did the trick.
Like a bad Saved By the Bell knockoff
, they jogged through the tunnels in unison, chanting
all the way, with pom poms in hand. Soon they were out of sight and presumably into the arena.
The Dunk was nearly full for the rivalry game between URI and Providence, another shot for me to see Danny Hurley's squad try for a Red Line Upset, this time against their intrastate rivals. If you've read this site, you know by now that I probably picked the wrong year to follow the Rams in their pursuit of RLUs
(although they did get one at Auburn), but I still had hope. Rumor was the Friars - under former Fairfield coach Ed Cooley - were fielding only six scholarship
players due to injury, although their record was a much more healthy 6-2 coming in.
I went into the game thinking that there couldn't be much difference between Providence and URI, even though one was north and the other south of the venerable Red Line. URI's Ryan Center was modern and reasonably large. I had been to the Dunkin' Donuts Center a few times in the ancient past, mostly for minor league hockey, and in college I remembered it as small - at least compared, obviously, to the Carrier Dome which I was used to.
However, it was bigger than I thought, with many more bells and whistles than you'll get at the Ryan Center (or most places we go to). The hockey arena thing is big, too. The sightlines behind the basket are horrible (unless you're in the temporary seats, which I used to love at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament back in my undergrad days) and miles away from the floor. Perhaps most importantly, it's downtown, off campus, which just doesn't sit right. Full credit to the Providence fans who turned out in large numbers, but the Dunkin' Donuts Center is a multi-purpose arena that occasionally hosts Providence College basketball games.
As I was being entertained by the hilarious (intentionally or not? You decide) Cooley Christmas video
that played on the scoreboard repeatedly in pregame, the URI cheerleaders made their way into the arena. But they didn't go the floor, they were sitting in the section next to me, in the front couple rows of what appeared to be an impromptu visiting student section.
Ah, visiting, I get it. Although it was a rivalry game, this was a true road game for Rhode Island, and therefore they didn't have the luxury of a floor-side student section or their cheerleaders being allowed near the court. Yet they came in uniform anyway to support their 2-6 squad. A tip of the cap.
The Rams hung in there in the first half, despite the fact that Bryce Cotton, PC's best player and one of the nation's leading scorers, who was a gametime decision with an injury, started and hit a superhoop for the game's first points. Cotton would be one of four Friars to play at least 39 minutes, but would be held to 11 points.
Providence, which - apparently trying to conserve energy - never got of its 2-3 zone once in the contest, led for most of the first half, but Nikola Malesevic's transition layup gave URI its first lead, 24-23, with 2:34 to go until halftime. URI had a chance to go into the break with the lead, but a miss at the buzzer sent us to intermission with the Rams trailing 27-26.
Cue the Cooley Christmas video again.
My seat was in the Rhode Island section, which I was originally grateful for, but I was stuck in the neighborhood of two URI fans I labeled Mr. Obnoxious and Mr. Annoying.
Obnoxious took an early edge in person in the building I'd most like to never to meet as he came up to his seat double-fisted with beers, and made sure he stood up and screamed every time URI made a great play. I love the enthusiasm, but one of the reasons we love basketball is that the game rarely stops, so when you stand for 10 seconds in front of me, it's possible (and probable) I'm missing something.
As the beer kept flowing (I have nothing against drinking beer in general, but I always frowned on binge drinking at major sporting events just for the pure economic factor, if nothing else), Obnoxious became closer and closer to a living embodiment of his name, arguing every call, I mean EVERY call, even if no one else was. Also, such phrases as "All Day" and ending everything with "baby" just screamed that he was a big fan of the loathed Sportz, and not Our Game.
As halftime concluded, and Obnoxious came back to his seat, he was much more subdued, even though this was probably the biggest stretch of the game for his team. Alas, the effects of the alcohol had clearly kicked again, and by the 10-minute mark of the second half, he was gone, never to return. Can't say I was displeased, sadly.
The game continued, and although Rhode Island's defense has given Hurley's squad a chance in most games this season, their offense in the half-court has been just short of abysmal. Freshman Jordan Hare looks much improved in just the month he's been playing, and his dunk (he finished with 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting) on a rebound of a miss gave URI a 33-31 lead early in the second half.
Unfortunately, it would be their last.
The only four Friars who scored on Thursday were Cotton, LaDonate Henton, Josh Fortune, and Kadeem Batts, but sometimes depth can be overrated in college basketball, especially with the amount of time outs built into it these days. I was very impressed by the quartet, especially Henton (21 pts., 17 rebs.) and Batts (23 pts.). The Rams turned the ball over 20 times against the PC zone, with the Friars recording 13 steals.
Like many of our friends below the Red Line, Cooley doesn't exactly have first crack on whomever he wants, with Henson (a 6-foot-6 rebounding machine) somehow slipping through the cracks from Lansing, Michigan, and Batts (a 6-foot-9 player with some touch) from Georgia. (Cotton is also from Arizona.)
Henton couldn't be stopped on the glass, and his putback with 8:07 left gave the Friars their first double-digit lead of the night at 50-39. There simply aren't enough offensive options for Rhode Island right now, who won't get much of a respite in Atlantic 10/14/16 play this season. Have you looked at that conference from top to bottom lately?
Xavier Munford came in to the game ninth in the nation in shots attempted, but it's hard to blame him. He took a team-high 13 (3-of-13) in this game, missing all eight of his superhoop attempts. Rhode Island would finish 3-of-18 from behind the arc, and never really got back into the contest.
Which brings us to Mr. Annoying. For most of the game, he was just a regular overzealous supporter, wearing a ridiculous jersey and cheering a little bit loud at inopportune times for my tastes. But as the game got out of hand, he transformed. His cheers and clapping, both with an annoying pitch, became louder as the Providence lead increased.
Being alone didn't phase him, he just got more vocal. Obviously, he was due to draw the ire of Providence fans at some point, and he did. But he still didn't relent. "Let's Go Rho-dy", "Let's Go Rho-dy" with the game ever so slowly (too slowly, as URI fouled until the end to extend the game needlessly). As the PC fans fired more things in his direction, he had such eloquent rebuttals at "Fuck you" and "I'll piss on you". To me, this was worse than the Sportz fan Mr. Obnoxious because there didn't seem to be any alcohol as an excuse. I guess in any crowd of 9,000, you're bound to have a couple of Obnoxiouses and Annoyings, but they always seem to be near me.
Thankfully, the game ended eventually. As far as teams above the Red Line go, it's pretty easy to root for Providence and out former friend Cooley. A game like this also shows the gulf between the haves and have nots. The Friars aren't picked to be anywhere near the top of the loaded Big East with teams like Louisville and Syracuse hanging around, yet they were clearly dominant here, even shorthanded.
In the end, Providence, we'd like to further your cause, but we can't change the fact that you play off your campus in an all-purpose hockey arena. But we wish you well in your travels.
As the cheerleaders were obvious parked near me, I saw a couple of them in the parking lot on the way out (and we had established earlier in the season that they are Title-R compliant). They said that not being on the floor was standard procedure in the rivalry game, but they always make the 30-minute or so trip when the game is in Providence.
I told them I thought it was good of them to do that, I'm sure not everyone would have, especially this season, when it's clear they might not be very successful this season.
"We love our school. We love our team."
And there you go.
at PROVIDENCE 72, RHODE ISLAND 57
RHODE ISLAND 2-7 (0-0) -- A. Morgan 2-7 0-2 5; M. Powell 3-9 4-5 12; X. Munford 3-13 4-4 10; N. Malesevic 4-12 4-6 12; A. Malone 2-5 0-0 5; J. Hare 6-7 2-2 14; T. Buchanan 0-1 0-0 0; M. Aaman 2-4 0-0 4; R. Brooks 0-1 0-0 0; A. Bigby 0-0 0-0 0; J. Nazarko 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-52 14-17 57.
PROVIDENCE 7-2 (0-0) -- L. Henton 9-16 3-3 21; J. Fortune 3-10 10-11 17; K. Batts 8-19 7-8 23; B. Cotton 3-9 4-4 11; B. Kofane 0-1 0-0 0; L. Goldsbrough 0-2 0-0 0; T. Bancroft 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 24-26 72.
Three-point goals: URI 3-18 (N. Malesevic 0-3; A. Malone 1-1; T. Buchanan 0-1; M. Powell 2-5; X. Munford 0-8), PROV 2-15 (B. Cotton 1-6; L. Henton 0-3; J. Fortune 1-6); Rebounds: URI 26 (A. Malone 4), PROV 35 (L. Henton 17); Assists: URI 11 (N. Malesevic 4), PROV 13 (B. Cotton 7); Total Fouls -- URI 21, PROV 15; Fouled Out: URI-N. Malesevic; PROV-K. Batts.
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