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Providence’s trip South starts with a few bumps

03.16.16 at 7:22 am ET
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It had absolutely nothing to do with basketball, or the game preparation for the USC Trojans. But if you’re into good karma vs. bad karma as a predictor of things to come, let’s just say Providence’s NCAA trip didn’t start out as it might have been planned.

The Friars’ trip south to Raleigh, North Carolina, was delayed by more than three hours Tuesday, largely due to difficulties with arrangements made by the travel company responsible for booking all travel — for all NCAA tournament teams — around the country.

In this particular instance, the charter airline company apparently failed to provide adequate staff for security screening required from charter departure areas on site at T.F. Green airport. This wasn’t a case of going through normal security procedures through the regular airport terminal, as the team usually walks right onto a plane for chartered travel.

With a lack of TSA staff to provide screening, and thanks to a union rule that wouldn’t allow pedestrian traffic on the tarmac, the basketball team and support group (roughly 150 people) were forced to wait more than three hours to board.

When screening finally had been completed, the team, staff, cheerleaders and band boarded a bus to travel a distance of approximately 100 feet to enter the aircraft for the flight south — about the same distance as a full-court fast break.

The flight proceeded normally thereafter, despite the delay in getting away. The Providence travel party used the same plane that carried the University of Buffalo into Providence earlier in the afternoon for the Bulls’ NCAA game(s) at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

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Providence set for NCAAs, will face USC

03.13.16 at 9:44 pm ET
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For a third straight year, the Providence Friars are making their way into the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But unlike the last two seasons, if appearances and initial impressions mean anything, these Friars are set upon making this strictly a business trip.

Providence was selected to play in the East Regional as the ninth seed, with first- and second-round games to be held in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Friars will face eighth-seeded Southern Cal out of the Pac-12 Conference, with tip-off on Thursday night at approximately 9:45 p.m. The winner of the Friars-Trojans matchup stands to face top-seeded North Carolina on Saturday.

The No. 9 seeding came as a surprise for some, to be sure. Based on a four-game winning streak leading into a Big East semifinal loss to Villanova and a strong non-league record, Providence had been mentioned somewhere in the range of a 7 or 8 seed. And based on the rather lukewarm response from the team as Providence’s name was revealed on the bracket, perhaps the Friars have a chip beginning to grow on their shoulders.

“We’re happy we’re in the tournament,” PC coach Ed Cooley said immediately after the Friars’ selection was announced. “There was a lot of love to the Pac-12 with regards to their seedings, but we’re just happy to be in there, happy to be playing and looking forward to playing [USC].”

Said Friars forward Jalen Lindsey: “We’re here. We made it to the tournament. It doesn’t matter who we play or when we play, we’re just ready to play and hopefully get a win.”

That will be the goal, of course, after two first-round exits the last two seasons in the Big Dance. While Providence has now reached the NCAAs for a third straight year — the first time since 1975-78 to accomplish the feat — the Friars have not won a tournament game since 1997 (vs. Chattanooga in the Sweet 16). That’s five straight defeats (1997, 2001, 2004, 2014, 2015) over the course of 19 years.

“I think this year we’re looking forward to getting into the next round,” guard Junior Lomomba said. “We’ve been here before, we’ve made it to the tournament. So now we just want to make it to the next round.”

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BC beats Vermont in overtime to advance to Hockey East semifinals

03.13.16 at 7:58 pm ET
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It’s rare that someone calls hockey “a game of inches” and it’s not an eye roll-inducing cliché. Sunday’s Game 3 between Boston College and Vermont was one of those games where it was a perfectly appropriate term to use, though.

Two and a half minutes into overtime, Vermont’s Mario Puskarich threw a puck on net that led to a giant scrum in the crease. The puck bounced around, slowly rolled toward the goal line, and spun on its side right on the goal line before being cleared away. The Catamounts came that close to pulling off a quarterfinal upset at BC for the second year in a row.

It was so close that while it was under review, some on the BC bench were expecting the worst.

“I had no idea, but my man there, Adam Gilmour, said, ‘Coach, I think it went in,’” said BC coach Jerry York. “Talking to one of the referees, he said it was absolutely right on the line. It was so close. It was a hair from being fully across the goal line. We really dodged a bullet there. Maybe that’s when you get home ice, you get the hockey gods with you.”

Seven minutes later, BC’s Ryan Fitzgerald (a Bruins prospect) took a pass from Gilmour and fired a shot from the slot that deflected off a Vermont player’s stick and into the net to give the Eagles a 4-3 win and send them to the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden for the first time in three years.

BC will take on Northeastern in the second semifinal at 8 p.m. Friday night, while Providence will face UMass Lowell in the first semifinal at 5 p.m.

“I’m very excited for our kids,” York said. “We had a stretch there where we seemed to go to the Garden every year. Then when you don’t go for two years in a row, it seems like a decade.”

The Catamounts took their first lead of the game 4:37 into the third when Conor O’Neil buried a rebound off Yvan Pattyn’s point shot for his second goal of the game. BC answered with 9:30 left in regulation when JD Dudek tipped in Casey Fitzgerald’s slapper from the point for his first career goal.

Each team came close to winning it in regulation. With 1:35 to go, Fitzgerald walked in from the right circle and fired a shot that Vermont goalie Packy Munson stopped, then followed up on his own rebound and got another shot off that Munson had to turn aside. Then with under 50 seconds to go, Catamounts defenseman Ori Abramson fired a shot off an offensive-zone faceoff win that deflected off something and required a reactionary kick save from Thatcher Demko to send the game to overtime.

The Eagles opened the scoring 4:02 into the game when Teddy Doherty found Zach Sanford in front with a nice pass from the left boards. Sanford then spun to his backhand and flipped a shot past Munson for his 13th goal of the season.

The Catamounts answered 4:49 later on a pretty redirect by Craig Puffer off Rob Hamilton’s shot from the point. There weren’t too many great scoring chances in the first outside of the two goals. The most notable probably a nice save by Munson on a Colin White rebound bid with just under four minutes left in the period.

BC retook the lead 1:56 into the second when Dudek threw a shot on net from the right circle and Colin White knocked home the rebound while getting taken down for his 18th goal of the season and first since Feb. 12.

The most controversial moment of the game came 40 seconds later when Vermont appeared to tie it. Pattyn crashed the net and pushed a rebound over the line, but the goal was called back after a lengthy review due to what the refs deemed a “distinct kicking motion.” The controversial part is that, at least on the replays shown in the arena, there didn’t appear to be anything “distinct” — in fact, it was hard to tell if the puck even went off Pattyn’s skate.

“I looked at it from our angle, and I don’t have the same angles that the referees are looking at, but what I saw was the puck went under his skate, that he never really made contact with the puck,” said Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “Again, that’s only one angle. They have, I would think, multiple angles. We have to trust the officials on that. Those guys did a great job tonight. … When it goes to review, you have to just trust the officials. They spent an appropriate amount of time to look at it, for sure.”

The Catamounts did eventually tie the game at 2-2 with 3:32 left in the second, though. Puffer threw a shot to the net that hit a skate in front and bounced right to O’Neil, who buried it before Demko could get reset.

With the loss, Vermont ends the season with a 15-22-3 record, but Sneddon said he’s encouraged for next year given the way his team played in the postseason — the Catamounts swept UConn in the opening round last weekend before taking heavily-favored BC the distance this weekend.

“As bummed out as I am that we lost tonight, I’m equally excited about what we have returning, coming in, and the character that we displayed this weekend,” Sneddon said. “I think we have a lot of exciting things in place for next year.”

College hockey roundup: Lowell, Northeastern, Providence, Harvard, Dartmouth complete sweeps

03.12.16 at 10:27 pm ET
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LOWELL — What was supposed to be the marquee series of the Hockey East tournament came to a rather anticlimactic end thanks to a dominant performance from UMass Lowell. The fourth-seeded River Hawks never gave fifth-seeded Boston University a chance to force a Game 3, as they took control of Saturday’s game right from the get-go, scored three times in the first 31 minutes and went on to win 5-0 to complete the series sweep and advance to the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden on Friday.

Kevin Boyle stopped all 24 shots he faced to pick up his seventh shutout of the season, breaking Connor Hellebuyck’s program record for most shutouts in a season. That’s a remarkable accomplishment in and of itself for the senior, but it’s made even more remarkable by the fact that Boyle was cut from UMass three years ago after his sophomore season before transferring to Lowell and totally reviving his career under head coach Norm Bazin and assistant coach Cam Ellsworth, who works with the River Hawks’ goalies.

“I think it’s loud and clear when a kid ends up first in Hockey East in goals against and save percentage,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “I think he’s a first-team all-leaguer, and he’s a Hobey Baker candidate. He’s a poised kid. He’s continued to develop over his two years here. We’ll be sorry to see him leave.

“I think Kevin’s been our difference-maker this year. When you’re first star now 10 times, you break the single season record for shutouts, what else can you say? He lets his play do the talking. We’re extremely proud of Kevin. The goalie coach, Cam Ellsworth, has done an outstanding job with him.”

Jake Kamrass opened the scoring 3:07 in when he took a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that somehow beat Sean Maguire glove-side. Lowell continued to control play and extended its lead to 2-0 6:26 into the second when Joe Gambardella snuck a shot under Maguire’s pads from the right side, leading to Maguire getting pulled.

C.J. Smith got behind the BU defense and made it 3-0 four minutes later, and then scored again early in the third. Smith finished the series with two goals and three assists. John Edwardh closed out the scoring with 11:30 remaining on a backhand finish after making a nice move around Charlie McAvoy.

BU had controlled 5-on-5 play for much of Friday’s Game 1, a 3-2 Lowell win, but that wasn’t the case Saturday. They couldn’t generate much of anything in terms of great offensive chances, struggled to execute even some easy breakouts and just seemed pretty flat in general.

The River Hawks will be looking to reach the Hockey East championship game for the fourth year in a row. They won the tournament in 2013 and 2014 and lost to BU in the final last year. The Terriers, meanwhile, will have a week off to regroup before the NCAA tournament, which they’re more than a 99 percent lock to make.

“I’d like to congratulate Lowell on a great series,” said BU coach David Quinn. “They’re a real good team. They certainly know how to play playoff hockey. And they’re a better hockey team than we are right now.”

Elsewhere in Hockey East…

-After falling behind 2-0, Vermont scored four straight to stun top-seeded Boston College with a 4-2 win and force a decisive Game 3 Sunday at 4 p.m. at Conte Forum. Liam Coughlin had a goal and two assists, Brian Bowen and Rob Hamilton each had two points, and Packy Munson stopped 43 of the 45 shots he faced. BC was playing without top defenseman Ian McCoshen and Vermont was missing forward Brady Shaw, both due to one-game suspensions. The Catamounts will be looking for a repeat of last year’s quarterfinals, when they pulled off a two-games-to-one upset at BC.

-Northeastern continued to role, beating Notre Dame 6-4 in South Bend to complete a series sweep and improve to 18-1-2 over their last 21 games. The Huskies turned a 1-1 game into a 4-1 lead with goals from Kevin Roy, Garret Cockerill and Dylan Sikura just 3:20 apart early in the second. Northeastern eventually built up a 6-2 lead before two late Notre Dame goals made the final score line look closer than the game was. Roy had two goals and two assists on the night and now has 10 goals and seven assists in his last 11 games. The Huskies last reached the Hockey East semifinals in 2011 and haven’t won the tournament since 1988. Notre Dame is pretty much locked into an NCAA tournament spot despite the sweep.

-Providence beat Merrimack 2-0 to complete the series sweep and advance to the Garden for the fourth time in the last five years. The game was scoreless through 50 minutes, but Garrett Gamez broke the deadlock with 9:21 remaining and Kevin Rooney added an empty-netter in the final minute. Nick Ellis made 20 saves in picking up his fourth shutout of the season.

And in the ECAC…

-Harvard smoked Rensselaer, 8-2, to complete a series sweep and advance to the ECAC semifinals in Lake Placid on Friday. The game was tied 2-2 after one, but then the Crimson scored twice in the second and four more times in the third. Jimmy Vesey had two goals and an assist and Sean Malone had a goal and two assists to lead the way. Harvard is looking to defend its ECAC tournament title.

-Charles Grant stopped 46 of the 47 shots he faced to lead seventh-seeded Dartmouth to a 2-1 win and an upset sweep over second-seeded Yale. After Yale opened the scoring, Tim Shoup and Kevin Kilistoff scored five minutes apart late in the first to give the Big Green a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, despite getting outshot 47-15 in the game. This is Dartmouth’s first trip to the ECAC semifinals since 2011.

Seton Hall claims Big East title; Providence waits on NCAAs

03.12.16 at 9:58 pm ET
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NEW YORK — If you go by tournament seedings, No. 3 Seton Hall’s win over No. 1 Villanova on Saturday night could be described as an upset.

But if you had the chance to watch the Pirates play against the Wildcats — or really, watch any of the college basketball postseason play thus far around the country — you know the word “upset” doesn’t much exist in any language.

Behind the take-charge play of Big East Tournament MVP Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall stunned Villanova with outstanding shooting early and solid defense late to beat the Wildcats 69-67 at Madison Square Garden.

Rallying from a 13-point second-half deficit after trailing by 11 at the half, Villanova tied the game at 50 on a Kris Jenkins 3-pointer with 9:22 to play. The Cats then grabbed their first lead since a 9-8 edge early in the game on another Jenkins trey with less than a minute to play at 67-64.

Not to be denied, Whitehead (26 points) and the Pirates closed out an outstanding tournament effort by scoring the final five points of the game — four from Whitehead — with the sophomore guard completing a three-point play on a driving layup and a foul by the Wildcats’ Jenkins with just 18 seconds remaining.

Jenkins missed a 3 with 11 ticks remaining, and a putback attempt from Josh Hart looked as if he was fouled on the play. The officials — woefully inconsistent on contact fouls throughout this tournament, as well as throughout the season — let the players decide the outcome.

Angel Delgado grabbed the rebound, was fouled by Ryan Arcidiacono, and hit one of two from the line before a final attempt by Arcidiacono fell short at the buzzer.

“Both teams played so hard and unbelievable, they played a great game,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, co-Coach of the Year in the Big East with Villanova’s Jay Wright, said in the postgame din. “These guys haven’t had a bad day at practice all year. I just let my kids play. They have so much confidence from what we give them in instruction, we just let them go.”

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College hockey roundup: Special teams lift Lowell to Game 1 win over BU

03.11.16 at 11:13 pm ET
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LOWELL — Boston University dominated 5-on-5 play Friday night, but UMass Lowell dominated special teams, and that’s what wound up deciding Game 1 of their Hockey East quarterfinal series. The River Hawks scored a pair of power-play goals, the second of which proved to be the game-winner, while shutting down BU’s two power plays en route to a 3-2 victory.

Lowell entered Friday’s game just 4-for-43 on the power play over its last 12 conference games, but converted on its second man advantage of the night and then again on its fourth and final one. That last power play, with under six minutes to go in the game, presented the River Hawks with a chance to add an insurance marker, as Michael Louria had given them a 2-1 lead three minutes earlier.

And they did just that. C.J. Smith, who had three assists on the night, made a great cross-slot pass to Adam Chapie in the left circle for a one-time goal that upped Lowell’s lead to 3-1 with 4:38 to go. BU made things interesting with a Matt Grzelcyk goal just 23 seconds later, but the River Hawks held on for the final few minutes. They’ll have a chance to close out the series Saturday night at the Tsongas Center.

“As is usually the case in playoff games, special teams was a huge factor in who wins and who loses,” said BU coach David Quinn. “At the end of the day, that was the difference. Our penalty kill let us down. It’s going to have to get better [Saturday night] if we’re going to have a chance to extend this series.”

The Terriers opened the scoring 6:22 into the second when Bruins second-round pick Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson cut to the front from the left circle and beat Kevin Boyle five-hole for his 10th goal of the season. It was Forsbacka Karlsson’s third goal in the last two games after going 12 games without a goal prior to that.

The River Hawks answered 2:36 later on the power play when Smith made a nice pass to find Joe Gambardella in front. Gambardella made a quick move to his backhand and slid the puck past Sean Maguire for his seventh goal of the season.

“You always like results. The puck movement for a couple of those power plays was pretty strong,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “When you get moving, obviously some lanes open up. Fortunately for us, we were able to execute a couple times.”

The best save of the game came from Lowell’s Boyle 4:57 into the third. He stopped a Bobo Carpenter wraparound, but the puck popped right to Matt Lane in the slot. Lane fired from point blank range, but Boyle made a huge glove save to keep the game tied 1-1. Boyle finished the game with 33 saves, including 17 in the third period alone.

The Terriers were the better team in the first period, opening up a 10-2 edge in shots at one point. Their best chance came with a little under seven minutes left in the frame. Boyle denied a Matt Lane shot from right in front, then turned away Charlie McAvoy’s rebound bid as well.

Elsewhere in Hockey East…

-Adam Gilmour and Austin Cangelosi each had a goal and two assists and Thatcher Demko stopped all 36 shots he faced as Boston College beat Vermont 3-0 to take a 1-0 series lead. Gilmour opened the scoring 4:14 into the first, Cangelosi scored later in the first, and Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald added his 21st goal of the season on a second-period power play. The shutout was Demko’s 10th of the season, three more than any other goalie.

-Northeastern beat Notre Dame 3-1 to take Game 1 and improve to 17-1-2 since Dec. 19. Goals from Lincoln Griffin and John Stevens gave the Huskies an early 2-0 lead, and Tanner Pond tacked on a late empty-netter. With the win, Northeastern jumped up to 15th in the Pairwise rankings (as of 11 p.m.), which are used to determine the 16-team NCAA tournament field.

-Erik Foley scored the go-ahead goal with 6:50 remaining and Trevor Mingoia added an empty-netter as Providence beat Merrimack 3-1 in Game 1. Nick Saracino also scored for the Friars, while Mark Jankowski had two assists.

And in the ECAC…

-Harvard beat Rensselaer 5-2 in Game 1 of their best-of-three quarterfinal series. Sean Malone (2 goals, 1 assist), Luke Esposito (3 assists), Seb Lloyd (2 goals), Colin Blackwell (goal, assist) and Bruins prospect Ryan Donato (2 assists) all had multi-point games. The Crimson outshot the Engineers 43-27 in the game.

-Connor Yau scored 17:14 into overtime to lift Dartmouth to a 4-3 Game 1 win over Yale, who is the No. 2 seed in the tournament and a top-10 team in the country. Nick Bligh scored twice for the Big Green and Charles Grant made 48 saves. Dartmouth led 1-0 entering the third, but the teams traded goals throughout the period, culminating with Yale’s John Hayden scoring with 2:46 left in regulation to force overtime.

Providence falls in Big East semis, awaits NCAA bid

03.11.16 at 10:18 pm ET
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Providence's Rodney Bullock (5) and Junior Lomomba (32) battle for a rebound during Friday's loss to Villanova. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports)

Providence’s Rodney Bullock (5) and Junior Lomomba (32) battle for a rebound during Friday’s loss to Villanova. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK — Perhaps it was just a case of too much “wild” in Villanova’s Wildcats for the Providence Friars to handle Friday night.

Or it could have been the Wildcats’ defensive scheme, set up to slow down the Friars’ Ben Bentil after a 38-point performance in a win over Butler the day before. Whatever it was, it worked — maybe a little bit too well — in Villanova’s 76-68 Big East Tournament semifinal win at Madison Square Garden.

Bentil was a non-factor with Villanova’s double-teams in the post, and the Wildcats forced him into foul trouble. Bentil eventually fouled out of the game with 9:40 to play while managing only three points. Still, Providence managed a comeback that fell short at the end.

“We had opportunities,” PC coach Ed Cooley said. “I think the difference between the two teams today was veteran composure, especially down the stretch. I thought we made a lot of critical mistakes that they capitalized on.”

Leading by five at halftime, the Wildcats started the second half quickly behind two Kris Jenkins 3-pointers in the opening minute. While Providence stayed within shouting distance of Villanova’s lead, Bentil’s fifth foul came with his team down 50-36 and less than 10 minutes to play.

And that’s precisely when the Friars started to play like themselves. After Junior Lomomba and Kris Dunn got things started with four straight free throws, Kyron Cartwright (14 second-half points) and Jalen Lindsey hit key jumpers from the outside. PC ripped off a 17-5 run in just over four minutes, pulling within 55-53 with just under seven minutes to play.

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Providence advances in Big East Tournament with win over Butler

03.10.16 at 9:52 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Perhaps Ben Bentil was a bit upset with his teammate being named Player of the Year?

There’s no denying Kris Dunn’s honor from the Big East coaches, of course. But Bentil, the sophomore from Wilmington, Delaware, made his presence felt early and often Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Often enough that Butler’s Bulldogs are glad they probably won’t see him anymore this year.

Bentil ripped through the Bulldogs defense for 38 points on 16 field goals — both PC records for a single-game performance in Big East Tournament play — as Providence defeated Butler, 74-60. The Friars advance to Friday’s semifinal round against top-seeded and nationally third-ranked Villanova.

“Normally, I’m not a fan,” PC coach Ed Cooley said afterward, “but today literally I was a fan to see the ball going in the net like that. He scored it every imaginable way — drives, shots, step-backs. I’m like, man, I’ve got to get him the ball any way I can.”

Bentil led the Big East in scoring during the regular season at nearly 22 points per game, but as Cooley mentioned, he had his game going every way imaginable Thursday against a solid Butler team. His 23 second-half points included three 3-pointers, drives to the hoop and step-back mid-range jump shots that the Bulldogs simply could not defend.

“We had no answer for Bentil,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We had zero answer. We threw the house at him a few times. We tried to play zone, we had no answer for him. He was outstanding.”

Said Bentil: “Coach told me I’m going to be a matchup nightmare, and I let that sink in. I did. I tried to take advantage of whoever was put on me, and tried to make the best out of it.”

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Holy Cross upsets Lehigh to win Patriot League, earn berth in NCAAs

03.09.16 at 10:43 pm ET
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Malachi Alexander hit 6-of-7 3-pointers and scored 26 points as ninth-seeded Holy Cross, which did not win a road game in the Patriot League during the regular season, won its fourth straight away from home in the conference tournament, a 59-56 victory over second-seeded Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Crusaders, just 14-19, will make their first appearance in the NCAAs since 2007.

Lehigh (17-15) had won a school record-tying 11 straight games, but Holy Cross took control early, grabbing a 25-14 halftime lead and holding on from there. Lehigh missed four chances to tie the game from behind the arc in the final 20 seconds.

Historic day for Friars, Kris Dunn

03.09.16 at 10:33 pm ET
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NEW YORK — It’s fairly safe to say the Providence College basketball program has had some good days in the past, but nothing quite like what happened Wednesday.

In a mild surprise, PC junior guard Kris Dunn was named a repeat winner of the Big East’s Player of the Year award, repeating the honor he shared with Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono one year ago. Only this time, Dunn was a solo act on the Madison Square Garden stage.

Dunn finished fourth in the Big East in scoring (16.3 ppg), led the league in steals (2.7), finished second in assists (6.4) and pulled down 5.7 rebounds per game. In voting by the Big East coaches, Dunn claimed the Player of the Year award while also claiming a second straight Defensive Player of the Year honor — and first team all-Big East.

He becomes the first player in the history of the storied conference to win Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year twice. Dunn also is the sixth player in league history to win the conference’s version of an MVP multiple times in his career.

“What Kris has done is remarkable,” coach Ed Cooley said on his radio program Wednesday night in New York, in front of Friars fans and supporters at P.J. Clarke’s. “I’m proud to have coached him, and I’ll be even prouder to watch him play on in his career. Especially over the next few games.”

“There’s a lot of great players that could have easily won this award,” Dunn told the media gather at MSG prior to Wednesday night’s opening round of the Big East Tournament. “I feel like Ben Bentil, one of my brothers and one of my great teammates, he also could have won this award easily. He’s been a great leader on and off the court, and has put in a lot of hard work.”

To Dunn’s point, Bentil also was on the all-Big East first team, and led the conference in scoring (21.9 ppg) while finishing fifth in rebounding (7.8 per game). Villanova’s Josh Hart, Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett, Marquette’s Henry Ellenson (who won Freshman of the Year honors and is an expected NBA lottery pick) and Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead were the other first team selections.

Dunn and Bentil will lead the fourth-seeded Friars into Thursday’s Big East quarterfinals against fifth-seeded Butler (2:30 p.m. tip, 103.7 WEEI-FM). A potential date with nationally third-ranked Villanova awaits in Friday’s semifinals.

The Big East Coach of the Year honor also was a bit surprising, as Villanova’s Jay Wright and Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard shared the award. Not that either was undeserving, but Xavier’s Chris Mack was a strong candidate — and remains a strong candidate for National Coach of the Year honors as well.

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