The Friars (8-6, 4-4) really needed that one. PC was riding a three game losing streak that saw them get beat at the buzzer twice and then fade late against Marquette. It couldn’t have come at a worse time with road trips to #11 Creighton and #3 Villanova looming for the Friars. Similarly to last year’s squad, these guys know how to play when their backs are up against the wall. PC beat Creighton in Omaha Wednesday night with a 74-70 victory. The Friars really responded in this first of two road tests and you gotta give the players and coaches credit.
Revisiting Keys to the Game
It is always an entertaining exercise to look back at the keys to the game in the preview article (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2021/01/19/providence-creighton-game-preview-round-2/#more-3038) and see if they actually were a sign of how the game would turn out.
1. Jump Out to Early Lead – Check. Friars held a 17 point lead in the first half, which allowed them to stay in the game even after Creighton made a few runs. The Friars also widened the lead at the start of the second half. Great job by the Friars starting both halves strong.
2. Limit 3 Point Attempts from Ballock – Marvelously done by the defense. We wrote about how you need to force Ballock to beat you off the dribble primarily because it isn’t his strong suit. Ballock finished with 2 points on 1-4 shooting (0-3 from 3). This is a blueprint all Big East teams should follow moving forward against him.
3. Limit 3 Point Attempts, Part 2: This was a defensive coaching clinic by the Friar staff. While Jefferson went off in this game, that is fine! When you take away the best thing a team can do, great teams like Creighton find other ways to score. I’m sure Cooley and staff would rather see Jefferson drop 20+ than see Creighton make 10+ 3’s. Creighton shot 21% below their season average from 3, made 6 less 3’s, and attempted 5 less than their average. Cannot say it enough. Fantastic job by the staff.
Breed Plays Critical Role in Road Win
Who said freshman are gross? Alyn Breed was massive for the Friars in this one. The freshman guard scored 15 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists in the winning effort. We saw a glimpse of this against Alabama, and he was excellent tonight. He just seems comfortable on the court and has a good ability to attack the basket while drawing contact.
We talk about the importance of a third player emerging and begging Reeves or Gantt to be that person. Maybe we’ve found that third person in Breed.
Friars Kept Feeding Nate
It was a combination of foul trouble and an off night in the first meeting for Nate Watson. It was clear though the coaching staff felt Nate needed more touches against Creighton. The Friars kept feeding Watson to the tune of a career high 29 points on 12/19 shooting. Watson abused the Creighton bigs. There were a few possessions where Kalkbrenner played him tough but there was absolutely no answer for Nate.
He is quietly putting a campaign together for Big East Player of the Year.
Duke Has Off Night, Hits Dagger Three
You must be pretty good to have an off night and still put up a stat line of 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Duke did though have a team high 5 turnovers and shot 2/11 from the floor. One of those two shots happened to be a massive one. Clinging to a two-point lead and the shot clock winding down Duke heaved a 3 from the corner that banked in with 30 seconds left. BOC yelled at me for calling game when he hit it and it probably was premature (BOC: It was premature) but that three buried them.
The Friars have another chance to build their resume with a game Saturday against #3 Villanova on the road. Win that one, and the Friars are back in the NCAA tournament conversation. Ah, the life of a Friar fan!