PROVIDENCE, R.I. – An early run by Providence College on Saturday had Central Connecticut men's basketball (2-8) chasing them throughout the whole game, but despite the 68-53 road loss, there's still good things to take away from the weekend.
Taking on a red-hot Providence, who is now sitting at 10-1, the Blue Devils weren't given much hope when it came to oddsmakers. A 27-point favorite, the Friars were well on their way to "covering" in the game, but CCSU wouldn't roll over and quit despite running into one of the best teams they'll see all season.
CCSU battled before ultimately falling. PC held control the entire way, never in doubt on its way to the final.
"I said in the locker room, they're really playing well," said CCSU head coach Pat Sellers on Saturday. "They could be in the AP Top-25 next year, playing well. ... My hat's off to them, they're going to do damage in the Big East (Conference)."
One of the noticeable things that made PC so good against CCSU was its utilization of its size underneath the basket. Big men like Justin Minaya, Noah Horchler and AJ Reeves were able to work under the rim for standing dunks, alley-oop scores and were able to draw the foul when needed in a size advantage.
The trio combined for 43 points, with Reeves scoring a game-high 17 points. Horchler had 12 points and 10 boards, a double-double and Minaya had 14 points.
Size is one of the issues CCSU brings into this season, and rolled out with a guard-heavy starting lineup as usual. Sellers credited the Friars with doing what they needed to do in order to get their success, pointing to the physical nature of an Ed Cooley coached team that used size and speed well.
"They're quick and they're long," said Sellers. We might be quick but we're not as long as they are, so early on in the game they got off to a really good start. ... They used their length and tipped passes and they got a couple of layups in transition that got them going. It took away some of quickness. ... They're not UConn length, but they got more girth than UConn. Those big guys inside can wear you out."
CCSU was able to mitigate a blowout by getting inside and scoring, but missed plenty of three pointers that could have cut down the difference. CCSU finally started to score with ease, going on a 15-2 run to close out the game to bring what was once a 29-point game down to 15.
The Blue Devils, who were aiming to win the battle every four minutes when the game went to a media time out, won the second half 28-24 and earned seven points off turnovers in the second half after having none in the first.
Of the players who saw significant time on the floor was Providence local Jayden Brown, who Sellers lauded among others for improving on his physical play in the second half.
Brown finished with nine points and six boards. He also had an assist in 27 minutes of play.
"Jayden Brown, Coach Cooley knows Jayden too, he's from this area," said Cooley on the Providence native. "I think he's got a chance to be a pretty good player for us. Part of it, he's got to toughen up and be physical, aggressive and has to get two hands on the ball. In the second half, he kind of got in and got physical and tough and got some results. ... We want to see some physicality and some toughness."
Leading for CCSU in the scorebook was Tre Mitchell with 15 points. Nigel Scantlebury had 10 rebounds and nine points.
Next is Stony Brook, who sit at 5-4. Tip against CCSU will come from Stony Brook, New York at 6:31 p.m.. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.
"They're going to play four guards and a big, or sometimes four guards,” said Sellers on the Seawolves. “It's going to be a different type of matchup. We'll be bigger, ... but they have some really talented players and we're going to have to guard, play well in transition and have to not turn the ball over and take shots at the rim."