By Mark A. Hodgkin
Twitter - @Mark_Hodgkin
Bryce Cotton's game-winning 3-pointer on Sunday gave Providence its second win over Villanova in three weeks and matched the Friars' 2011-12 BIG EAST win total with more than a month left in the season.
The diminutive shooting guard has emerged as a savior for Ed Cooley's team and one of the top scorers in college basketball. The 6-foot-1 Cotton ranks in the top 10 nationally with a 21.4 points per game average.
And on a young team, Cotton has been asked to assume more of a leadership role with the Friars.
"A lot of it has been by example," Cotton told USA Today. "Slowly but surely I'm being more vocal with the team, and that's something I definitely needed to work on, because it's not a big personality trait of mine."
Point guard Vincent Council entered the season as the most hyped player on the Friars, garnering a spot on the preseason All-BIG EAST team. But Council missed much of the early season with a hamstring injury and Cotton emerged as a scoring leader for the Friars, who played much of the nonconference schedule with a thin rotation.
However, Cotton has not slowed down with the start of BIG EAST play. His 20.7 points per game average in conference play is over two and a half per game higher than the second leading scorer (Shabazz Napier of Connecticut). He has scored 20 points or more in six of his last eight games and has made the BIG EAST Weekly Honor roll the last four weeks (and six times on the season).
In Sunday's game at Villanova, Cotton became the 45th Friar to amass the 1,000 career point mark.
Cotton and Providence take on No. 17 Cincinnati tonight at the Dunkin' Donuts Center at 7:00 p.m. on the BIG EAST Network.