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Dunn hitting his stride for PC, even when he's sick

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published March 26. 2013 4:00AM   Updated March 26. 2013 6:31AM

Providence - Kris Dunn started feeling sick shortly before the start of Monday's NIT second-round game.

He was still in the Providence College locker room during the national anthem, finally arriving on the bench moments before the opening tip.

"It just hit me out of nowhere," Dunn said. "I was just throwing up a little bit."

Considering everything that Dunn has experienced during his freshman season, his illness was only a minor roadblock.

Dunn gradually shook it off and made a key contribution in a 77-68 win over Robert Morris at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The Friars earned a trip to Baylor on Wednesday for a quarterfinal game in Waco, Texas.

"Kris Dunn played very, very ill today," PC coach Ed Cooley said. "Credit him. I thought he grew up today. Kris Dunn was big-time defensively. I think Kris Dunn, at the end of the day, will become an elite level defender.

" I think he'll become probably the Big East defensive player of the year in years to come. And he's just a baby, learning how to play."

Normally a starter, Dunn came off the bench to contribute six points, eight rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes. It took Cooley just two minutes to insert Dunn into the lineup.

But the former New London standout needed more time to fight off his pregame illness.

"I was just hot," Dunn said. "I felt a little light-headed and dizzy and it slowed down my game. Then I drank a little bit of water and I got it going."

The Friars (19-14) played solid all-around team basketball to gradually pull away from Robert Morris (24-11), which shocked Kentucky in the first round. They rode a strong free throw shooting performance - 31-for-36 - to victory.

Still, it was far from easy. Providence trailed 62-61 with about six minutes remaining before taking charge. Dunn came up big, grabbing two straight offensive rebounds, getting fouled in the act of shooting on the second one.

Standing at the line, Dunn bent over, hands on knees, while waiting for the basketball. Then he calmly hit both free throws for a 72-66 lead with 2:12 remaining. The Friars closed it out from there.

Dunn, a supremely athletic 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard, has been on a rebounding tear in recent weeks, grabbing at least seven in five of the last six games.

Despite feeling under the weather, he was determined to add to his rebounding total on Monday.

"My Dad always said, 'if you want something, just go get it.' I felt like I needed it so I tried my best to go get it," Dunn said.

Another win means another game for Dunn. He's trying to make up for a bumpy start to his college career, sitting out the first nine games with a shoulder injury.

He's a prime example of why college basketball coaches love any postseason invitation. Even the three-letter kind.

It's all about building for the next season and Dunn has been busy laying a firm foundation for the future. He had his best all-around game in Wednesday's first-round win over Charlotte, contributing a career-high 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.

"It's just going to get me ready for next year," Dunn said.

Given a chance to help the Friars advance to the NIT quarterfinals, Dunn wasn't about to let an illness prevent him from playing on Monday.

"It happened to me before plenty of times during my lifetime," Dunn said of his pregame illness.

He found the perfect cure Monday night.

"Because we won, I feel a lot better now," Dunn said.

g.keefe@theday.com

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