The Friars got a statement win on Monday night with 63-58 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers. With the win the Friars knock off a top 35 team per KenPom and are off to their first 3-0 start since the 2015 season. That 2015 season the Friars would start the year winners of 14 of their first 15 games and a #8 ranking. It was also the season where PC won a NCAA Tournament game before bowing out to the home UNC Tar Heels. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s our takeaways.
1. DomiNATE- When Nate Watson announced he was returning for his 5th season he mentioned that he had personal and team goals he had sights on. Well he took strides in achieving both of those tonight. Watson was unstoppable for PC, scoring a team high 24 points on 11/15 shooting. Wisconsin’s young but talented front court was no match for Nate around the rim. We would have liked to see him get a few more touches to close the game but credit Wisconsin for fronting him in the post and having heavy on-ball pressure on PC’s guards.
Make no mistake though. Watson dominated this game. This win is a great resume builder for not only the team, but a Nate Watson all-America campaign.
2. Al Durham’s Return to Big 10 Play a Rollercoaster – It was an eventful return for Al Durham facing Big Ten competition. Early he landed hard after a drive to the rim and would later exit the game after going down in between two Badger defenders leading to a turnover late in the first half. He would later return to the game and come up with the game’s biggest shot.
With the Badgers on the late comeback trail PC was in desperate need for a hoop. Durham sized up freshman Chucky Hepburn and drilled a 3 to put PC up 58-52 with 1:44 to play. Al pressed a bit in this one trying to show the Big Ten what he’s capable of and because of that made some uncharacteristic plays. At the end of the day, you don’t leave the Kohl Center with a win without some of his big plays down the stretch.
3. Late Game Miscues End Up NOT Hurting Friars– PC ended Wisconsin’s 24 -game nonconference home win streak, but it wasn’t necessarily smooth sailing down the stretch. Wisconsin was able to cut the lead to 5 as PC had a bevy of turnovers, missed free throws and il-advised shots. The Crier wasn’t necessarily fretting the miscues because having watched Wisconsin on offense I knew our 13 point lead with 6 to play was an insurmountable deficit for the Badgers. Having said that, the Friars have go to clean up the late game execution or it will cost them dearly. You cannot expect to win many close games when you go 58% from the line and have 15 turnovers.
4. Ed Crosswell v Brad Davison– If you’re a fan of college basketball you know by now Brad Davison is a guy who likes to get under a team’s skin. With Brad Davison having to pick up the slack with leading scorer Johnny Davis out of the lineup, you had a feeling he’d try to have one of his vintage Davison games. Well sophomore Ed Crosswell wasn’t putting up with it.
In the first half he got tangled up with Brad, with Davison refusing to let go of his arm. Later he’d get Davison on the body for a foul but made sure to block shot and stare down on him. When he blocked a Tyler Wahl lineup in the second half I’m pretty sure everyone watching on FS1 heard him yell “get that s*** outta here!”. His overall statline may not have showed it but I’m liking this idea of Crosswell being an enforcer off the bench.
I wanted to take the time to point out a cool moment in the postgame interview with the media and Ed Cooley.
I’m reading Dana O’Neil’s The Big East book and one thing that is apparent, the conference was built on coaches that had a camaraderie for each other’s success, as long as they weren’t playing each other. This same spirit that Dave Gavitt built the Big East upon was on full display from Ed Cooley.
The Friars will return to action on Thursday against UNH. It will be their final tuneup before embarking on the Legends Classic in Newark.