PROVIDENCE — Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley can’t emphasize enough the value of having fifth-year seniors on the roster and playing a highly competitive non-conference schedule before the Big East season begins.

Truth be told, the Friars are learning much about who and where to turn after an ankle injury sent guard Jared Bynum to the floor.

Seven minutes into the seventh game of the season against St. Peter’s, Bynum crumpled in front of the Friar bench and hasn’t appeared since in a uniform, a span of two weeks.

Taking the Friars’ incumbent point guard off of the floor has resulted in projected off guard Al Durham to assume the dribbling and play-making role.

“When you have older players who can adjust on the fly, that’s what they can do,” Cooley said of having two fifth-year seniors in the frontcourt in Nate Watson and Noah Horchler, and two fifth-year senior transfers in Durham and Justin Minaya.

The Friars have won three games without Bynum, the latest being a 68-58 decision over America East Conference foe Vermont Tuesday at The Dunk.

When Bynum will be back is anyone’s guess. As Cooley is wont to say, “He’s still doing rehab, we just don’t know at this point,” preferring to caution his return. “He’s moving a lot better, but I don’t think he’ll be ready (Saturday for Central Conn.).”

In his absence, the Friars followed the flight of Watson (24 points on 10-for-12 shooting) and A.J. Reeves (14 points on 8-for-12 shooting) to win their fourth straight game and improve to 9-1 on the season.

“Our guys are buying into their roles,” Cooley said of his backcourt rotation. “Anytime that you have a team that is connected on both sides of the ball, those teams normally have success.”

There is a precedent for Bynum, too, as he missed 10 games last season with a groin strain, during which time PC went 4-6.

“He’s (Durham) going to have to be the senior we brought him here to be,” Cooley said of the southpaw and supremely confident Durham, a product of the Indiana University program. The 5-foot-10 Bynum, Durham, Pipkins and Kyron Cartwright before them all fit the mold of a small guard.

The Friar backcourt accounted for 14 points, four assists and two rebounds in taking a 30-20 lead over Vermont by halftime. Reeves hit a trio of 3-pointers, while the Catamounts (6-4) had no answer physically for Watson (15 points on 7-for-8 shooting).

By game’s end, Durham had nine points and five assists, with the Friars collecting 18 assists on their 24 field goals.

“I’m seeing a lot of great things out of our group,” Cooley added. “You have to adapt and be versatile. Al (Durham) is more of a lead guard, not so much a point guard.”

“It wasn’t one of our better execution days offensively, there were a lot of breakdowns.”

“My hope is that Jared (Bynum) can loosen those guys up,” Cooley said of Bynum’s skill at getting into the gaps of defense and creating spots for the PC shooters.

Through the first seven games of the season, Bynum had a better than 2-to-1 assist (26) to turnover (11) rate, grabbing 18 rebounds and averaging six points per game.

Bynum played in 33 games during the 2018-19 season at St. Joe’s, sat out the ’19-’20 season upon transferring to PC, and then appeared in 17 games as a sophomore last season.

Without Bynum last season, Cooley turned to UMass transfer Luwane Pipkins, David Duke and Reeves for bringing the ball up the floor. Without Bynum this season, Cooley has a trusted hand in Durham, but also brought on Bishop Stang product Brycen Goodine of New Bedford and sophomore Alyn Breed (eight points, three steals against Vermont) to also handle Bynum’s role.

“We all have our roles, but we can step in and fill other’s shoes,” Durham said of his versatility in Bynum’s absence. “For myself, I just want to do whatever it takes to help the team win. You can’t be hesitant or put your head down.”

PC is unbeaten (9-0) against Vermont and 87-7 against America East foes, while Cooley has a 103-39 record against non-conference foes since arriving in Friartown 11 seasons ago.

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