PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Providence coach Ed Cooley has absolutely no reservations on placing even more responsibilities on Kris Dunn.
"Every game Kris plays, this whole city is getting on his shoulders. That's why he came back to school," Cooley said after his 12th-ranked Friars rolled past St. John's 83-65 on Saturday. "He wants to be the leader. He wants to be the guy, and I'm going to help him do that."
Dunn had 26 points, nine rebounds and assists on Saturday. It was clear the redshirt junior was ready to take on all comers after St. John's closed within 56-50 with 9:30 remaining. The preseason All-America cooled off the Red Storm with consecutive 3-pointers that helped the Friars (14-1, 2-0 Big East) re-establish control.
All told, Dunn scored 12 straight points for the Friars, who have won eight straight. Cooley removed Dunn from the game with 2:48 remaining and he received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 12,410.
"He's one of the best players in the country," said St. John's head coach Chris Mullin, who probably won't be the last coach to laud such praise upon Dunn. "He's got the total package. He can post up and play off the dribble. He's an impressive player. We tried to crowd him a little bit but he's so good in transition."
In one such instance when the Red Storm (7-8, 0-2) threw a full-court press at Dunn, he calmly navigated his way through trouble before finding Ben Bentil for a jumper that put the Friars up 72-57 with 4:15 left. The leading scorer for the Friars, Bentil had 17 of his 20 points in the second half to go along with nine rebounds.
Rodney Bullock followed up his 25-point effort at No. 9 Butler this week with 13 points and eight rebounds against St. John's, which has now lost five straight. Kyron Cartwright added 11 points, 10 coming in the opening half.
Before Dunn could take over, the Friars had to overcome a sluggish start. The Red Storm made eight of their first 13 shots to take an 18-11 lead. Cartwright played a huge hand in the game turning in PC's favor. The sophomore made a 3 and scored on a layup as part of a 32-13 run that enabled Providence to take a 43-31 halftime lead.
"We thought because of his change of pace and change of speed that he was going to be a big factor for us," Cooley said. "He kept the tempo at a high pace, which is what we want to play at."
Dunn knows that when he's sharing the court with Cartwright, he can enjoy the freedom that comes with playing off the ball.
"We played a lot together during the summer and in practice," Dunn said. "We know each other's game and know how to feed off one another."
Yankuba Sima had 14 points for St. John's while Felix Balmaou scored 11.
Before the game the Friars held a moment of silence for Donovan Lindo, a 16-year-old from North Attleboro, Mass. who passed away on Christmas Eve. A passionate follower of Providence basketball, Cooley said that he could feel Lindo's presence on several occasions against St. John's.
"Today was a game that we wanted to play for a special young man. We thought about him the whole game," Cooley said. "He helped us win. He helped Kris make a couple of 3s and helped me call a timeout."
St. John's: The Red Storm entered play Saturday tied for fifth in Division I with 6.5 blocks per game. The Red Storm had three blocks against the Friars.
Providence: With the win at Butler on Thursday, the Friars finished December with a 7-0 record. It marks the first time the team went undefeated in December since posting a 7-0 mark in 1988-89.
St. John's hosts No. 6 Xavier on Wednesday.
Providence hosts Marquette on Tuesday.
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