The Broncs were building upon a bunch of momentum topping Iona in the MAAC tournament. With that win the Broncs used that as a recruiting chip to bring in guys like Allen Betrand, Tariq Ingraham, Adetokunbo Bakare and Zahrion Blue. The Broncs have sustained a bunch of hype over the past couple months as one of the top contenders in the MAAC along with Iona. And this game against reigning the Big East regular season champions showed exactly why.
It’s known nationwide how well Ed Cooley coaches, not always having the best talent but makes it work and makes it work well. Providence was 44th ranked in defense adjusted efficiency at 95.4 but the Broncs shook that to the core in the opening half.
The game opened up with two three pointers by ole’ and reliable senior guard Dwight Murray Jr who was the clear go to guy for the Broncs all night long. 8-4 was the score at the time of the first timeout and it was clear the Broncs had this different type of intensity about them, crashing the boards, fighting for opportunities after opportunities you could just tell they wanted it.
CIAA Player of the Year graduate student Zahrion Blue found his first bucket as a Bronc on a tip back layup and showed on both ends what he can bring to this team in his eight minutes of work.
The core group of the Broncs have been together for most of their tenures. And that was very evident in how smoothly everyone was working together with Dwight Murray and Allen Powell working off each other to get buckets. Half way through the first half and the Broncs had shut down Amica Mutual Pavilion and you could just see the chips on their shoulder.
Senior guard Allen Betrand, a transfer from Rhode Island University has always had the ability to get the ball into the basket. Betrand averaged 14 PPG at Towson on nearly 40% from deep and he displayed that tonight with 9 points on 3-5 shooting. Needle in a haystack is Betrand who tore his ACL, MCL and LCL that sidelined him for the 2021-2022 season. But he seemed to fit very well with a group that’s played together their whole collegiate careers.
Coming in as 13 point underdogs if you really did your research on this game, you’d know the Broncs had a bigger chance than what people were giving them. The Broncs were dominating the boards early and even saw a lead as large as 15 points but the Friars just found a way to keep themselves alive.
The Friars know how to get to the line being ranked 34th in FTA/FGA and that stayed true tonight with 43 FTA and 26 FTM. The Broncs just couldn’t stay out of foul trouble which ultimately would cost them. But Coach Baggett found himself with a 10 point lead going into halftime.
To say the Broncs came out the half flat would be an understatement because they couldn’t have any offensive flow going which got Providence right back into the game. One of the reasons for the flat offense was the disappearance of Dwight Murray, Murray just didn’t look to score and became a passive passer for the majority of the 2nd half. He ended up with 18 points but definitely could have more if he posed a threat earlier.
Over the past couple of seasons the Friars offense was produced as a result of their defensive production. And well they caused havoc getting in the faces of the Broncs players and forcing turnovers and creating opportunities at the line.
Six minutes into the 2nd half and the Friars tied the game at 43 a piece thanks to Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins who Coach Cooley praised in practice and showed his ability to get to the hole. But if there was an honest player of the game it would have been the play of Devin Carter just based off how he was able to shut down Dwight Murray in the 2nd half and caused chaos in the passing lanes. Carter finished with 9 points but his attributes were felt way off the score sheet.
The Broncs found themselves in big foul trouble with senior forward Mervin James and graduate student Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson fouling out. But luckily the Broncs have one of the deeper benches in the MAAC and stepping up was redshirt senior Tyrel Bladen and junior forward Nehemiah Benson in their spots.
The Friars built a lead as high as 10 with 7 minutes remaining but the heart of the Broncs shined through with timely stops down the stretch. Two Tyrel Bladen free throws cut the lead down to 8 with a couple of back and forth possessions until Dwight Murray drains a clutch three to get the margin to 7.
It was obvious that the Broncs were trying to get Murray open late with a bunch of screen handoffs and it worked with three minutes left when Murray hit a three to make the game 63-58. Talking about timely, Allen Powell would draw a foul behind the 3PT line at 2:41 and hope was very much still alive for the kids from Lawrenceville.
With the defender begging Allen Powell to take him baseline, Powell took it to the hole and made the game a two point game. Allen Powell would come through again with another jump shot to cut it to one and all the Broncs needed was one stop.
And well they got their stop with 10 seconds remaining but Allen Powell tripped on his own feet and turned the ball over which would end the game with Providence barely escaping the Broncs.
The Broncs in defeat came out as the winner of this game. Broncs showed heart but a little too late. You see the glimpses of greatness in this ball club and this won’t be the last time you hear about the Broncs on mainstream television. And the road to that statement starts Saturday back at the Alumni Gymnasium against NJIT.