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AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Preseason All-America Kris Dunn returned to the court Monday night, and Providence coach Ed Cooley could not have been any happier.
Back in action after missing the Friars' previous two games with a stomach virus, Dunn had 14 points and 11 assists in 24 minutes as No. 10 Providence blew past Massachusetts 90-66.
"Kris was about 80 percent today, maybe 85," Cooley said. "He was fine."
UMass coach Derek Kellogg said he felt before the game that Dunn would play.
"I thought it would be good for us to go at a guy who I think is a high lottery pick," he said.
Ben Bentil enjoyed a big night for the Friars, who earlier Monday found themselves in the Top Ten for the first time in 38 years. The sophomore carved up the Minutemen's frontline with a career-best 32 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
Bentil will head into the Big East portion of Providence's schedule as the team's leading scorer. A 29 percent shooter from 3-point territory, Bentil had three of the Friars' 10 3s.
"Honestly, I thought our leading scorer this year would be (redshirt sophomore) Rodney (Bullock). To Ben's credit he's really developed and is playing with a purpose," Cooley said. "He's a tough matchup. Anybody who can go off the bounce and go inside and out . those are some scary numbers he put up today."
Kellogg thought Bentil set the tone on both ends of the court.
"Between him and Dunn, anytime you've got a 1 and a 5 who are good as those guys, I think that's a good combination to have," Kellogg said.
Jabarie Hinds led the Minutemen (6-5) with 16 points while Trey Davis added 14. Providence (12-1) shot 49 percent from the field and held UMass to 39 percent.
Two 3-pointers from Jalen Lindsey, who had 14 points and six rebounds, helped Providence take a 14-5 lead. It reached double digits by the 10-minute mark of the first half as the Friars cruised to 45-33 halftime lead.
"Coach always talks about being the team that throws the first punch," said Bentil, who had his second straight double-double and third of the season. "We came out and threw the first punch, which was good."
Providence kept pouring it on in the second half as the Friars' largest lead was 25 points with 9:18 remaining. UMass never led.
The Friars had 28 assists on 34 field goals.
"Our identity is that we want to get up and down the floor and we want to move the ball. We didn't want to move it and take quick shots," Cooley said. "We wanted to take high percentage shots and play in front of the rim. Inside, out . I think that's the way the game is supposed to be played."
CLEARING THE AIR
Cooley took a few moments to address rumors concerning why Dunn has been held out of the Friars' last two games.
"Speculation and something other than one of our players being sick and assuming there's something else . the one thing that our program will always stand for is integrity," Cooley said. "If there's something of the nature where a young man isn't doing the right thing, they won't play and everyone will know about it.
"If a player is sick or injured, I'm not going to play him if is not 100 percent. You can't hide in this world," Cooley added. "If he's sick, leave him alone."
Providence: The last time the Friars were in the Top Ten Bruce Campbell was the leading scorer and Dave Gavitt was the coach.
Massachusetts: Junior G Antwan Space made his season debut and finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes.
Providence plays at Butler on Dec. 31.
Massachusetts hosts LIU Brooklyn on Dec. 29.
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