Bryant looks for key win over PC (7pm)

Photo by Joe Eke
Photo by Joe Eke


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The Bryant University men's basketball team turns around to face intrastate and BIG EAST rival Providence College Monday night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, a contest that comes just three days after the Bulldogs faced off against the No. 1 team in the nation in Indiana University to open the season. Monday's game tips off at 7:00 p.m. and will be carried live by Cox Sports in Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut and SNY in the New York Metro area.

This is the fifth meeting all time between the Bulldogs and the Friars, and Bryant is still looking for its first series win. These teams have played each other in three of the last four seasons, with the tightest matchup coming last season (Dec. 10), in a game the Bulldogs led at the half and throughout most of the second frame.

Providence College will most likely be without its top player in senior guard Vincent Council after the Wooden Top-50 Watch List candidate was injured five minutes into the team's season opener against NJIT Saturday. The BIG EAST Preseason First Teamer averaged 15.9 points and 7.5 assists per game in 2011-12. LaDontae Henton and Bryce Cotton posted 24 and 21 points, respectively to lead PC to a 64-63 win over NJIT, while Brice Kofane pulled in a team-high nine boards.

After the completion of the NCAA-mandated four-year transition period that began in 2008-09, Bryant University became a full and official member of Division I, effective September 1, 2012. With the transition now behind it, the Bulldogs enter into their first year with full NCAA and Northeast Conference (NEC) postseason eligibility. The 2012-13 campaign is the program's fifth competing at the DI level and fourth playing within the NEC, of which Bryant is the 12th full member.

The Bryant University men's basketball team opened the 2012-13 season with the toughest challenge in program history when they took on the top-ranked Indiana University Friday night. And despite the 97-54 loss at Assembly Hall, the Bulldogs proved just how far they've come over the last four years. Junior forward Alex Francis led the Bulldogs (0-1) with 15 points – second in the game only to preseason national player of the year Cody Zeller (18 points) – and went 6-of-12 from the floor, pulling down a team-best eight rebounds in his 2012-13 debut Senior point guard Frankie Dobbs added 12 for the visitors, dishing out a trio of helpers, while junior Corey Maynard chipped in 11 points with seven boards and a pair of steals.

Zeller paced the contest and added 10 rebounds for the top-ranked Hoosiers, who saw six players finish in double figures. Christian Watford put up 15 points and a game-high 15 boards in 29 minutes of action, while Remy Abell and Jeremy Hollowell chipped in 12 apiece as the home side also got 10 points from rookie Yogi Ferrell and junior Will Sheehey.

The Bulldogs kept the game tight through the opening 10 minutes despite spotting the Hoosiers a 7-0 lead out of the gates. Bryant fought back to within one before taking its only lead of the contest at the 11:37 mark, 15-14, on the third-straight bucket and seventh-consecutive point from Maynard. The edge was short lived, however, as Indiana quickly flipped the score back to the home side, a run emphasized by a Zeller dunk to put the hosts up, 23-16.
Bryant also found itself in early foul trouble, putting Indiana in the double bonus with nearly four minutes to go in the first half. The five-time national champions would take a 48-28 lead into the halftime break, shooting 55.6 percent to Bryant's 31.3 percent from the floor while capitalizing of their significant size advantage to outrebound the visiting Bulldogs, 24-16.

The second frame saw the Bulldogs shoot slightly better at 33.3 percent, as Bryant went 20-of-62 (32.3 percent) from the floor on the evening with a 4-for-29 mark from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers took the margin on the glass, 46-29, but had just one less turnover than Bryant, with 17. The contest featured the Bulldog debuts of starting guards and sophomore transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O'Shea, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Starks scored eight in his first game in a Bryant uniform, snagging a game-best three steals.

The Bulldogs look for their first-ever win over a BIG EAST program just mere miles from home Monday night, having gone 0-13 against the conference all time. Bryant has taken on six different schools within the BIG EAST Conference throughout its program history, coming closest to conquering this David vs. Goliath-type matchup back on Nov. 1, 2006, when the Black and Gold played Syracuse to a 92-86 battle at the Carrier Dome, an exhibition outing that ending in the Orange just edging out the Bulldogs in the last minutes of the game. Bryant has never played a BIG EAST team at home.

The Bulldogs gave the Friars all they could handle in the teams' last meeting, leading PC for the first 16 minutes of the second half before falling, 72-61, in the final minutes. Alex Francis paced the Bulldogs with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Dan Calandrillo chipped in a career-high 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor as Bryant finished the game shooting 41 percent from the field. The Bulldogs led for much of the first half and stayed in front for more than 16 minutes of the second before a late cold spell at the offensive end saw the visitors' chance of a win slip away. Bryant held a 56-49 advantage with under seven minutes remaining, but the Friars went on a 13-0 run to regain the lead with 3:37 left to play – their first lead since 38 seconds into the second frame – and held on from there.

From the opening tip, the Bulldogs showed patience in running their offense and gave the Friars few second-chance opportunities, keeping the game close throughout the first 15 minutes of the game. In the final minutes of the first, Bryant capitalized on poor Providence execution and turnovers to put together eight uninterrupted points. A Frankie Dobbs three followed by a slam dunk from Francis on a fastbreak led to a Ben Altit three from the top of the key, forcing PC to burn its second timeout. With time winding down in the first half, Calandrillo got a step on a Friar defender and hit a soft floater off the glass to send the Bulldogs to the locker room in front, 30-29, at the break.

Bryce Cotton kept the Friars in the game in the first half, accounting for 20 of PC's 29 points. He would finish with a career-high 34 points in the game. Bryant shot 48 percent from the floor in the first half and outscored the Friars, 6-0, in fastbreak points. Providence regained the lead briefly in the opening moments of the second half, but another strong run by the Bulldogs put the visitors back on the plus side. Bryant would lead by as many as eight early on in the frame, and the visitors led, 46-44, midway through the half.

Continued patience on offense and excellent defensive hustle led to more layups for the Black and Gold, who extended their lead to seven points, 56-49, with just under seven minutes to play. But with four minutes left in the contest, the Bulldogs went cold, allowing the Friars to get back into the game and take a six-point lead with 2:09 left to play, a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Providence attempted 24 free throws to Bryant's only six in the game (the Bulldogs made three), with the Friars holding a 37-32 edge on the boards. Bryant shot 41 percent from the field on the day with eight 3-pointers and saw four Bulldogs record double-digit points.

After leading the Bulldogs in points scored and points per game each of the last two seasons, and starting his junior campaign off with a 15-point performance against the No. 1 Hoosiers, forward Alex Francis stands just 33 points away from becoming the 32nd 1,000-point scorer in Bryant University men's basketball history. The New York native is also just 31 boards away from the 500-rebound mark and currently boasts a career shooting percentage above .500. His career 15.9 points-per-game average put him on pace to eclipse the 1000-point landmark in the fourth game of the season, on the road at Brown Nov. 21. The junior recorded 509 points last season as a sophomore, becoming the first Bulldog to top 500 points in a single season since John Williams did so back in 2005-06 (628 points in 31 games).

There are several ties between Bryant University and Providence College, and its not just the area code. Six current Bulldog coaches and eight athletic department employees attended Providence College — including one coach from the basketball world — while one current Friar coach formerly served on the Bryant bench.

A 2002 PC graduate, current Friar Director of Basketball Operations Kevin Kurbec spent three seasons with the Bulldog men's basketball program from 2008-11 before returning to Providence for the 2011-12 season. Kurbec spent 10 years with the Friars prior to arriving in Smithfield, including serving as the Director of Basketball Operations for head coach Tim Welsh from 2005-08.

On the Bryant end, head women's basketball coach Mary Burke, now in her 22nd season at Bryant, was a standout on the court for the Friars women's basketball team from 1984-88, where she accumulated 1,672 career points and graduated as the program's fourth-leading points scorer and seventh-leading rebounder (740) of all time. She set a school record for points in a game with her 43-point outburst against Miami of Ohio and was inducted into the Providence College Hall of Fame in 2008. In the same Hall of Fame class was Bryant's head men's soccer coach Seamus Purcell, a 1989 graduate and two-time All-American for the Friars on the pitch. Both head men's tennis coach Ron Gendron and head women's tennis coach Barbara Cilli are PC graduates, tennis standouts and former Friar coaches. Gendron graduated in 1990 and later served as both an assistant and head coach at his alma mater, while Cilli served as an assistant for one season on the PC courts. Theresa Garlacy, currently in her 17th season as the Bulldogs' head volleyball coach, is also a 1988 graduate of Providence, while track and cross country head coach Steph Reilly is a 2001 grad and former track captain.

Within the Bryant administration, budget manager Nicole Lambert is a 1989 Providence College grad, while Compliance Coordinator Mike MacDonald received both his undergraduate degree (2008) and his masters degree (2010) at PC, also serving as the graduate assistant for compliance in the Friar Athletic Department prior to joining the Bulldogs. The Bryant and PC athletic communications offices also share some ties, as former PC graduate students Mike Coyne (now of the BIG EAST) and Ryan Emerson (Colby-Sawyer) were also communication interns at Bryant.

Despite the final score, the Bulldogs were not shy about taking shots against the top team in the land. At game's end, Bryant actually fired more shots than than preseason favorites, firing off 62 shots to Indiana's 54. Sophomore Dyami Starks sent up a game-high 15, while senior Frankie Dobbs and junior Alex Francis each took 12.

The Bulldogs and the Hoosiers engaged in more than a little give and take in Friday's season opener at Assembly Hall, with Indiana committing 17 turnovers and snagging 12 steals. The Bulldogs took away eight balls on steals and turned it over just once more than their opponents (18). Indiana would finish the game with 19 points off turnovers while Bryant scored 13 off Hoosier miscues.

Fifth-year head coach Tim O'Shea on his team's season debut against No. 1 Indiana: "I thought we competed well. There's a big difference between a team that plays in the Northeast Conference and a team that's picked to win the National Championship. We know that, with a few adjustments offensively and [if we] shoot the basketball better, there are a lot of games that we are going to have an opportunity to win on our schedule ... This is a very unique environment to come into with a big crowd like that. I know what the scoreboard says, but I saw a lot of positive things from my team, and I can certainly see why Indiana is picked number one."

Single-game and season ticket packages are still available for the 2012-13 men's and women's basketball seasons. Fans can purchase tickets online at or by calling the Bryant Athletics Ticket Office at 401-519-TIXX.

For the fifth-consecutive season, all Bryant University basketball home games and select road contests can be heard LIVE on WOON 1240 AM. Veteran sportscaster Jon Wallach of 98.5 FM The Sports Hub Boston returns to call the action as the voice of the Bulldogs, alongside color analyst Tristan Hobbes.

After two tough road contests to open the season, the Bulldogs finally return to Smithfield for their 2012-13 home opener, Saturday, Nov. 17 against the University of New Hampshire. The game tips off at 1:00 p.m. from the Chace Athletic Center and can be seen live at and heard on WOON 1240 AM.