Council leads Providence past Charlotte in NIT
The rebuilding Providence program took another step forward with their latest win.
Vincent Council, the only senior on the roster, scored eight straight points to key a second-half charge that led the Friars to a 75-66 victory over Charlotte on Wednesday night in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.
"This is a great moment for us - great moment as our team is building, our program is building," coach Ed Cooley said after his Friars overcame a seven-point second-half deficit.
Providence (18-14) got its postseason win since an NIT win in 2003 and will host Robert Morris, which upset defending national champion Kentucky the previous night, either Sunday or Monday.
"We look forward to a great challenge, obviously our next opponent has played really well, beating a monster like Kentucky at home, but there's nothing like playing in this beautiful state. Great things are going to happen here. It's just a matter of time," said Cooley, in his second year as the Providence coach.
If the next game is scheduled for Sunday, the Friars will have to move the game to the University of Rhode Island - about 30 miles away - because of the United Cheer and Dance Nationals at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
"If that's where we have to play . at this point in time if you're going to be picky where you play, everybody better grow up," Cooley said. "The fact that we're still playing, embrace the opportunity, if it's down at the Ryan Center let's sell it out and have some fun."
Council, who finished with 16 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks, had help from his fellow guards. Bryce Cotton had 25 points, while freshman Kris Dunn, playing his best college game, according to his coach, had 14 points, nine rebounds six assists and four steals. Forward LaDontae Henton posted 13 points and nine rebounds for the Friars, who turned the ball over only five times.
Talking about Council and Cotton, Charlotte coach Ron Major said: "Those two guys did what high-level guards do. They made the right plays at the right time."
E. Victor Nickerson led fifth-seeded Charlotte (21-12) with 14 points.
"The margin was indicative of how hard-fought it was," Major said. "I am very proud of our guys. To come in here and take a Big East team to the wire, to fight them for 40 minutes and battle it out the way they did, I am very proud."
The 49ers lost eight of their last 12 after then-leading scorer DeMario Mayfield was suspended Jan. 30 and dismissed Feb. 22.