Jeff Dowtin, Fatts Russell, Cyril Langevine and head coach David Cox met with the media Tuesday to offer their thoughts on Friday's matchup with Providence.
On the game: It definitely takes on more meaning. It’s a huge rivalry, absolutely. And for us, coming off a loss, getting an opportunity to play here at home, in front of a great crowd is another opportunity for us to win a big game. Providence is an excellent team, a well-coached team. Their record does not at all indicate how talented and how deep they are. For us, we’re looking at it as a huge opportunity.
On takeaways from the West Virginia loss: We need more contributions from more guys. Fatts has been playing obviously at a very, very high level. We need some of the other guys step it up offensively to help him out. I think we played as tough a defense as we could against them, to be honest with you. I don’t like giving up 80-plus points, but they were at home, they were enormous - they were really, really big - and they pounded the ball inside. I thought our defense was solid enough, good enough to get us the victory on the road. Just a lack of offensive production from a number of guys didn’t help us.
On keeping Jeff Dowtin on the bench to start the second half vs. West Virginia: Just trying to get a jolt out of Jeff. We need a little more out of Jeff. He knows that. He’s not been quite satisfied with his play thus far this year. So I was just trying to get a jolt out of him. That’s all it was . . . It’s obvious we can’t reach those limits without him. He knows that. The rest of the team knows that. He’s my guy. I’m fully behind him. I support him 110 percent. That wasn’t a desperate move. It was just kind of a move to shake things up. He knows where he stands with this program. He knows how important he is, and he knows he’s got to deliver. That’s what the expectations are of him as a really good player, as a preseason all-conference player and as a senior on this team. I’m expecting him to come out of his shell.
On whether Dowtin responded well: He always does. If you’ve spent any time with Jeff, he’s a wonderful kid. He’s honest. He’s honest with himself, more importantly. The conversations that we’ve had - yes, I do feel like they’ve gotten through. He knows what needs to take place moving forward.
On last year's loss to PC: It was tough last year. My sixth game as a head coach, walking into the Dunk, and it was loud and obnoxious. It was everything that you expect it to be. Hopefully, it’ll be loud and obnoxious in our favor this year, and they’ll give Ed the blues as opposed to me.
On whether he hears from fans: I’m here and I go home - my same routine. We put that pressure on ourselves. We know. It’s a home game. It’s an opportunity to get a big win against an NCAA-caliber team, to help boost our resume. We know how challenging it’s going to be because of how talented and deep this team is and obviously how well-coached they are. We put that pressure on ourselves. Every time we come out on this floor, we’re trying to get better in practice. And every game, we’re trying to win. That’s what it’s all about.
On PC coach Ed Cooley: It’s not as close as Dan’s but I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Ed. He’s a guy, when I became an assistant coach, who I looked up to as an aspiring future African-American coach. Looking up to Ed when he was at Fairfield - he did a spectacular job and I knew his story. Then having the chance to meet him and interact with him over the next couple of years - he’s an outstanding man, first, an outstanding educator, an outstanding coach. I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for him. I don’t think we’ll be going at it at half court, necessarily, but he’ll be intense on Friday and I surely will be intense, as well. Our aim is to come out, play hard, compete at a high level and win the game.
On the magnitude of the game: I hate to say this, but I think it’s probably bigger for the fans and for the native Rhode Islanders. For us, it’s always important to come out here and prepare for each and every game. If we were to take Providence and put them on some sort of pedestal, what would we do for the rest of our games. For every game, we’ve got to come out here and be ready. But with respect to Providence, because it’s an in-state rival and because they’re talented, absolutely, we’re going to get ready and we’re going to prepare this week like it’s the Super Bowl.
On playing tough opponents already: I think that bodes well for us, and the fact that we’re a year older. I’m a year older. The players, we have two seniors now, as opposed to no real seniors last year. We’ve gotten older and more mature. I would hope that that bodes well for us. We will see, though, come Friday night.
On the 2017 win over PC: It was electric. I do remember that. It was a huge, huge game for us, because we felt it was an opportunity for us to actually beat Providence, and not just go into the game and compete. I just remember our guys playing so, so hard. I remember Stan Robinson diving all over the floor, Jarvis’ pace, E.C., Jared. I remember a lot about that game, the effort in particular. I’m sure the intensity and the effort on both sides of the floor will be there on Friday.
On being at the Ryan center: So great to be home. I can’t wait to come here, walk through those curtains, see the entire fanbase, the student body, the season-ticket holders, the alumni - it’s electric. I love this place. I love this arena. I’m sure, on Friday, it will be rocking.
On what he would compate the game to: NBA finals. This is one of the biggest rivalries in college basketball. Everybody’s excited for this. Everybody’s at this. Circled on their calendar. There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of things to look forward to for Friday. I’m excited, and my team is definitely excited.
On his advice to young teammates: Trust yourself, patience, don’t let the crowd and the whole arena get the best of you. You know yourself, you know what you’re capable of doing. Take a deep breath when you step onto the court and believe in yourself.
On the team's schedule: Definitely battle-tested. We’ve played a lot of big competition throughout the years and leading up to this. My teammates and I are very confident in ourselves and our abilities. We know what we’re capable of doing.
On the magnitude of the game: I can’t compare anything else to it - the atmosphere to the crowd, the emotion. It means a lot. We’re very excited. We know what’s at stake. We know we’re capable of winning this ballgame. We’re going to go out there with a lot of confidence.
On Providence: They’ve had their ups and downs, but we know they’re a great team. We know they’re capable of winning big games. They play hard, they play tough, they have a deep roster. They play a lot of guys and all those guys are capable of coming out and performing. They’re going to have their best game when they play against us, so we’ve got to be ready.
On the kind of game it is: It’s an NCAA Tournament-type game. It’s a big game for making it to the tournament. This is a big boy type of basketball game right here. We’re going to be ready.
On his big freshman-year game vs. PC: That was one of the funnest games I’ve ever been a part of. The atmosphere here was something you can’t describe, honestly. An hour before the game, it was filled. It’s something that we look forward to.
On what sparked him: It was the energy in here. I was an energy guy my freshman year, and I just fed off of it.
On how he's playing now: I feel like I’m a little different because I’m older now and I’m more mature. It’s a different type of feel, but I would say I’m playing well like that.
On his recent hot streak: I’ve been playing well, but my team hasn’t been winning those games, so I have to go back and look at different ways I can affect the game and get us some wins.
On late-game execution: We struggled at the end of the West Virginia game. We’ve got to tighten things up and we will.
On the rivalry: This game is always exciting to play in. Kind of more for the fans than it is for us. It’s kind of like another game for us, but it’s more important than that because of the rivalry.
On the rivalry: It’s my last go-round. It’s going to be fun. I went out there last year and played well but we didn’t win, so this year, we’re just going out there to win.
On Providence: They’re big. But put me up against anyone, and I’ll go out there and play, match their physicality. The size [sticks out] but we’re ready for that.
On tough opponents: It’s just a big stage, and I want to be on a big stage. I just go out there and give it my all. I’ve been up and down, but I finally found my groove the last couple of games, so I’m just going to go out there and keep doing what I have been.
On Fatts Russell: He’s focused. He’s not letting the little things get to him. When he’s on the court, he’s locked into the game plan. Obviously, it’s showing. He’s being productive and scoring at a high clip. I’m just happy for him. From last year, to come back and produce the way he is is really good for us and for him . . . You want to play with a dog. He’s a dog. I’m a dog. When you have two dogs on the court, it’s tough to defend that. He’s just going out there and having fun right now.
On the atmosphere: For the young guys, they’ve never experienced it. For me it’s another game, but it’s a big game. It’s going to be sold out. I’m just happy to go out there and play.
On how he feels about Providence: I don’t hate anyone. It’s a big game for them, a big game for us, big game for the fans. We’re just going to go out there and play, try to get a win for the fans and for us.