Friars Decline Coincides With Less Productive Henton
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Heading into the 2012-2013 season, not much was expected from the Providence Friars. In fact, PC was picked to finish last in the 15-team Big East Conference in the preseason poll of the league’s coaches.
But something changed along the way. The undermanned Friars surprised many people with their first semester performance which saw them go (7-2) heading into exam break. That (7-2) mark could have very easily been (9-0) given the fact that their two losses in Puerto Rico to UMass and Penn State came at the buzzer and in overtime respectively.
None-the-less, after a win over Colgate when the team returned from exam break, the Friars upped their record to (8-2). They saw McDonald’s All-American Kris Dunn play his first game in a PC uniform against the Red Raiders along with Arizona transfer Sidiki Johnson.
Even more exciting that that was the prospect of getting talented point guard Vincent Council back within the next couple of games causing Friar fans and the media that covers the team to wonder if maybe the program was ahead of schedule. Maybe the Friars could possibly compete in the upper half of the Big East this year and be in position to be in contention for an NCAA tournament bid.
That enthusiasm was quickly extinguished when the team lost 5 consecutive games, three of which were to teams that PC was expected to beat.
Losses at Boston College and Brown along with a loss at the Dunk to DePaul turned PC euphoria into Friar frustration bringing critics out of the woodwork.
So what went wrong?
That’s the million-dollar question.
Ed Cooley talked about how Dunn, Johnson and Council’s games weren’t in mid-season form like the rest of the team because of the time missed by that trio. It was also evident that this new influx of talent and depth created somewhat of a chemistry problem. Not from the sense that players didn’t get along, instead players were having a difficult time settling into and flourishing in their new roles.
But there has also been another problem plaguing the team of late and it’s certainly having an impact on the team’s performance.
Coming into the season, Providence has three primary options to score the basketball on offense. In no particular order they were Bryce Cotton, Vincent Council and LaDontae Henton.
Council, while also being the team’s top distributor at point guard, missed a substantial amount of time after injuring himself in the opener against NJIT and is just now starting to resemble his old self. Even so, with Council watching from the sidelines, the Friars managed to win consistently with Cotton, Henton and Kadeem Batts filling it up on the offensive end.
With the exception of a few games this season, Cotton has been an absolute force on offense. He is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor with great perimeter skills and the ability to create his own offense off the dribble.
And then there’s Henton.
As a freshman, Henton was fabulous last year. He averaged 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 45% from the field.
A quick look at Henton’s numbers this season also suggest that he is producing at a similar level. Through 20 games, he is averaging 14.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while shooting 41% from the field.
But a closer examination of Henton’s season shows a somewhat precipitous decline in production.
In the first 12 games of the season, Henton was averaging 17.3 points per game for the Friars while shooting 47% (78-167) from the field. In the last 8 games he is averaging 9.5 points per game while shooting just 29% (24-84) from the field.
So what gives?
Whether it is a coincidence or not, Henton’s steep offensive decline occurred after his career-high 37-point game at Brown on December 28th. In that game, Henton scored 24 consecutive points for the Friars in the second half helping the team to a 7-point lead which they eventually squandered in the game’s final minute.
After the game, Cooley laid into his star sophomore during his postgame press conference for playing “horrible” defense.
Is it a coincidence that Henton’s offensive decline after he was chided for playing poor defensively? Possibly.
However, whatever the reason is for his decline in production, the Friars need Henton to be much more of an offensive force down the stretch if the team is to win their fair share of games in the Big East.
While Cooley has not publicly admitted to being too hard on Henton following the Brown loss, a source close to the PC head coach believes that he does regret what he said about him after that game.
Furthermore, Cooley’s postgame press conferences have been a bit more subdued since that loss to Brown which is a sign that the coach realizes that his team’s psyche is fragile.
While Henton’s field goal percentage is down significantly over the last 8 games, so too are his field goal attempts. The sophomore averaged 14 shot attempts per game in the first dozen games and just 10 per game since.
It may be a good idea to make Henton a more focal part of the offense which he was both last year and for the first half of this season. Because the Friars need a productive LaDontae Henton to compete in the Big East Conference.