PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Bryce Cotton averaged only four points last season, but after a career-high 26-point performance in Providence's 87-65 victory over Florida A&M, he is now averaging 22 points per game, tied for the highest in the Big East.
"He's someone who really worked on his game over the summertime," said Friars coach Ed Cooley, whose team is now 3-0. "I couldn't be more pleased."Cotton scored eight of his points before the Rattlers (0-3) got on the scoreboard.Providence went on a five-point run that stretched the lead to 23-10 and caused Florida A&M to call a timeout with 6:44 left in the first half. Cooley, in just his third game with the Friars, ran to center court and threw his hands up to get the crowd going."I love, love, love playing at home," Cooley said. "There's no greater place in America to play than the Dunk."Providence went into halftime with a 39-19 lead after Cotton hit a floater from the lane to beat the buzzer.Freshman LaDontae Henton had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Friars."He's like a junkyard dog," Cooley said. "He's a multi-positional player. We're asking him to do a lot for a puppy."Reggie Lewis came off the bench to lead the Rattlers with 18 points.Providence had held its previous two opponents to zero bench points, but 36 of the Rattlers' 63 points came from substitutes.The Rattlers, who have lost their first three games by an average of 26 points, shot 33 percent from the field."We just couldn't put the ball in the hole," said Florida A&M coach Clemon Johnson.His team played without last year's leading scorer, Amin Stevens, and former starter Brandon Hosely, who are both academically ineligible.Johnson said it has been difficult to replace them. "We don't have anyone scoring for us."The Friars led 73-39 with more than five minutes left, but the Rattlers tightened the score once Providence put in its reserves.When Cotton was subbed out for the first time with Providence ahead 34 points, the crowd gave him an ovation."It's just a natural night for Cotton," Cooley said. "He's really playing at a high level right now."