Providence 72, Fairleigh Dickinson 61
Gerard Coleman came off the bench to score 18 points and grab seven rebounds as Providence defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 72-61 in a nonconference opener for both teams Saturday.
Although Coleman was the Friars' third-leading scorer last season at 10.3 points per game, Friars coach Ed Cooley said he has decided to make Coleman his team's sixth man ''because we want some scoring power off the bench.''
Largely due to Coleman's performance, the Providence bench outscored Fairleigh Dickinson's 28-0.
Lonnie Hayes, a junior college All-American last season, scored 26 points for Fairleigh Dickinson and added four rebounds and four assists. Kinu Rochford managed a double-double for the Knights, finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The game was close throughout the first half and for much of the second. A layup by Providence forward Ron Giplaye with 3:00 remaining in the game gave the Friars of the Big East a double-digit lead and Fairleigh Dickinson never threatened to overcome that deficit.
The game was Cooley's first as coach of Providence. A native of the city, he came to the Friars from Fairfield, where he compiled a 92-69 record in five seasons. Cooley got a standing ovation at the final buzzer from the Providence fans, who saw the Friars make no NCAA Tournament appearances and one in the NIT in three seasons under Keno Davis.
Discussing the differences in coaching styles between Cooley and Davis, Coleman said, ''Last year we pretty much tried to outscore people. This year it's more about getting stops.''
While some anticipated a slower-paced Providence team this year, Cooley says that won't necessarily be the case. ''I've got all kinds of issues going on upstairs,'' he said. ''I don't like to play at a slow pace.''
Both teams had to make up for the absence of key players. The Friars played without forward Kadeem Batts, a sophomore who has been suspended indefinitely. Fairleigh Dickinson was missing two players. Coach Greg Vetrone said, ''We were playing without starters Melquan Bolding and Mouhamed Lo, and we still managed to keep the game close.''
Freshman LaDontae Henton had an impressive debut for Providence, contributing 10 points and six rebounds. Point guard Vincent Council played all 40 minutes, scoring 12 points and dishing out five assists, but he shot only 5 of 19 from the field.
Providence will take on Fairfield, Cooley's former team, in its next game. ''It will be emotional,'' Cooley said. ''I have a great amount of respect for those kids as men. In the end, though, they're the absolute enemy. I care about the Friars. Go Friars.''