Three Thoughts: Providence 72, Yale 66

In the end, Vegas usually knows. So while the Providence fans, and even coach Ed Cooley to some extent, was a little upset the Friars didn’t bury Yale at various points of Friday afternoon’s 72-66 win, the Bulldogs can be equally peeved that they weren’t able to pull off the upset on a day where starting guard Kris Dunn (and freshman Jalen Lindsey) didn’t play.

(photo courtesy: Yale Athletics)
Yale’s Javier Duren led the way with a team-high 21 points at Providence on Friday. (photo courtesy: Yale Athletics)

Yes, Providence is the defending Big East champion. And yes, they are coming off a demolition of Florida State and a win over Notre Dame, pushing them to the fringes of the AP poll at 5-0. But if there was ever a “trap game”, this was it, stuck the day after Thanksgiving in between the games against the ACC teams and a Sunday game at Rupp Arena against a Kentucky team who has a bit of hype and attention this season. This is not a Yale team that expects to be near the bottom of the Ivy League, either, and this was not their best game, not when Justin Sears (who had some foul trouble) finishes with just seven points in six rebounds.

We don’t encourage gambling here, but a point spread is often a true gauge of what is expected in a contest, away from the biased opinions of fans and rankings. The line on this game? Providence by 6, of course.

Here are my thoughts from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center:

  1. Javier Duren was outstanding, but … –  Duren finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and – perhaps most importantly – just one turnover. But Sears and Armani Cotton, who played so well against Lafayette, didn’t give him too much help. Sears had six turnovers and Cotton went scoreless in 27 minutes, missing a couple of big open looks late in the game. Jack Montague, who was red-hot to start the season, went just 1-of-6 from behind the arc against a bigger, longer Providence defense. ”I just don’t think we played really well overall, and yet we still had a chance to win the game,” Yale coach James Jones said. “So that’s disappointing. Justin got in foul trouble, and we have to learn how to survive without him if that happens. We fouled them too much and we turned it over too much.”
  2. Yet Yale was able to hold its own for the most part –  LaDontae Henton is averging 25 points per game and showed why, finishing with 29 and scoring against whomever Yale put on him. And Sears had trouble with a Providence frontcourt of Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris, who are listed at 7’ and 6’9”, respectively (and other Yale players that tried to go to the hoop in the halfcourt had the same problem). That led to the Bulldogs trying 31 three-pointers, not usually one of their biggest strengths (and making only eight). But statistically, the big differences were Henton and a 40-14 free throw attempt advantage. ”I’m glad we won, and I’m glad it kind of finished the way it did,” Cooley said. “In our league, in the Big East, proven to be one of the most dominant conferences, we’re going to have to execute end of game situations. This Yale team will win many games this season, they’re well coached and they have a lot of juniors and seniors. So there’s a lot of things we can be upset about today, but at the end of the day we’re 6-0.”
  3. There may be some personnel issues upcoming – Nick Victor hopes to return in a couple of weeks, and freshman guard Makai Mason scored 12 points in 19 minutes, including three shots from behind the arc. He looked more confident, especially in the second half, and Jones went with him over Montague for much of crunch time. Sam Downey also did well off the bench, scoring six points in 14 minutes.  ”Makai is going to be a very good player for us,” Jones said. “He’s still young, still makes some freshman mistakes, but we feel he’s going to be a very good player.”

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