Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley had to be joking when he suggested this week that the PC-URI basketball showdown Saturday night is not a rivalry game and that it should be played at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence every year.
Providence College and the University of Rhode Island not a hoops rivalry? You gotta be kidding me! Tell that to the 8,000 basketball fans who will cram into the Ryan Center in Kingston for the 7 o’clock start.
And play at The Dunk every year? Yeah, right. One of the reasons URI built the Ryan Center, in addition to having outgrown Keaney Gym, an old-fashioned college pit with spectators sitting an arm’s length from players, was to entice PC to put its basketball team on a bus for the short ride to South County every other year. That’s not going to change now. This will be PC’s seventh trip to the Ryan Center. They are 2-4 but have won the last two and the last five overall.
Rhody and PC fans should be in for a treat. The Friars are 7-1 and No. 23 in the nation. They feature the versatile guard Kris Dunn, a special player capable of taking over a game with his scoring, rebounding, passing and defense. Dunn is already a candidate for numerous post-season honors. He is averaging 18.6 points and 6.6 rebounds.
The Friars also have a rising star in sophomore Ben Bentil (17.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg).
URI, 5-2, is still adjusting from the opening game loss of its star, E.C. Matthews, who went down with a season-ending knee injury. Hassan Martin (11.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg), the other half of URI’s dynamic duo, has been slow to step into the leadership gap. Kuran Iverson, the Memphis transfer, is averaging 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds, and outside shooter Four McGlynn is averaging 13.3.
PC leads the series, 71-54.