PC Opens Big East Play with Massive Road Win Against #20 Connecticut, 57-53

Providence, 11-1 on the season, continued their winning ways by beating the UCONN Huskies in Hartford 57-53. We break down how the Friars won the game and what is up next for the scorching Friar squad.

Revisiting Keys to Friar Victory

In the game preview here (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2021/12/17/pc-starts-big-east-play-against-familiar-foe-uconn-game-preview/#more-4150), we detailed several vital components if the Friars wanted to escape with the victory.

  1. Rebounding Needs to be a Team Effort – UCONN came in averaging 7 more rebounds a game than the Friars. In this one, UCONN slightly outrebounded PC 43-40; however, the rebounding totals came from all facets of the Friar squad. Watson led the way with 7 rebounds, but everybody chipped in. Notably, Bynum came off the bench and secured 6 boards.
  2. Get Nate Involved Early – Watson finished with 10 and 7 on 5-12 shooting. The length and athleticism of Akok and Whaley clearly bothered him, but he was able to weather the storm and put forth a productive evening. Moving forward, I’d love to see Watson play a bit more like Croswell and not be so tentative around the rim. Attack the hoop and make the opponent make a stellar play on the ball (hint: most of the time the refs are going to call a foul). Too often, Watson gave Whaley the benefit of the doubt and didn’t try to finish on top of Whaley. Watson has the strength to go through most defender’s chests and that also mitigates the defender from being able to block the shots. It is a good teaching moment for the Friar staff and Watson. In all, it was a solid showing from the Friar big man.
  3. Knock Down Perimeter Shots – Besides Reeves showing out from deep (4-8 from 3), Providence was again pretty abysmal on the perimeter. The Friars shot 33.3% from 3 and 39.7% from the floor. Luckily, UCONN was worse, which is a testament to the defensive prowess of the Friars. Horchler missed a few wide open looks, which is rare for the sharpshooter. It is nice to have an off shooting night from the majority of your squad and still secure the win.
  4. Maintain Composure – Besides the end of game theatrics from Durham, Providence did a marvelous job of killing any momentum in the XL Center. Providence kept the game close early, which is all they needed to do, and seemingly countered every run from the Huskies with a run of their own. This team just has this innate ability to take a punch and counter back with a run of their own. It is, honestly, one of the most impressive traits of this team.

Notable Takeaways from the Game

Reeves is coming on in a big way – Don’t look now, but A.J. Reeves is playing the most consistent and best ball of his Friar career. Reeves led the Friars with 16 points and is averaging 15.8 points/game over his last 5 games. When Reeves is locked in offensively, it opens up the entire offensive playbook for Providence.

If you recall from the UCONN game, Ed Croswell had a play where he cut to the rim and had a wide open lane for an easy dunk. Why did that happen? Multiple defenders chased Reeves to the 3 point line to contest a potential shot, which led to Croswell being left wide open. That doesn’t happen if Reeves isn’t hitting consistently from deep.

I’ve said time and time again that if Providence finds its form from deep, they’ll be incredibly difficult to beat. Reeves is making that happen for this Friar squad, and I couldn’t be happier for the senior.

Bynum looks strong in his return – Jared Bynum was not expected to play, and I believe I saw it announced that he wasn’t playing. Thus, it was a shock to me to see him sub into the game. Not only did he play, but he significantly contributed to the win. Bynum in 26 minutes scored 9 points, secured 6 rebounds, and had 2 steals. He showed today why he is so important to this team, as it takes the pressure off Durham to handle the ball exclusively.

Croswell is the perfect Cooley player – After a few blocked shots by the UCONN big men early in the game, it became apparent that the only way to combat their length is to take it right into their chest and see if they could match their physicality. Enter Ed Croswell. I admittedly said on the podcast this may not be the type of game Croswell thrives in. Again, he proved I’m an idiot. Croswell was extremely productive in this game, putting up 11 points in 15 minutes.

Croswell is a blue-collar, tough minded big that matches the Friar DNA. He knows his role and plays it perfectly. UCONN couldn’t handle his physicality last night. Croswell continues to make me look like a fool, and I’m completely okay with that.

Even when the offense isn’t clicking, Friar defense saves the day – It is amazing that Providence was able to go on the road and hold a nationally ranked squad in their own building to 53 points. If you told me pregame that Providence was only going to score 57 points, I would say that the Friars likely lose by 10+. UCONN shot only 31% from the floor and was 28% from 3. Providence is going to be in every game due to their defensive ability, and last night was a perfect example of winning despite offensive woes.

End of game execution needs to improve – It is completely okay to be happy with the Friar victory while being furious with the end of game execution. The Friars won by 4, but likely should have won by 10+. Providence was up by 7 when Durham secured a rebound and decided to elbow Tyrese Martin in the face for no apparent reason. It was the right call by the refs, and Durham should know much better than to do something silly like that. Instead of having the possession and being up 7, UCONN was able to cut the lead to 5 and make this game closer than it needed to be. Durham then compounds the mistake by taking an ill-advised drive to the rim with 20 seconds remaining on the shot clock. He missed, and Connecticut pushed the pace to make a 3 to cut the lead to 2. It was a series of really foolish plays by Durham, but he was able to make amends with those plays by scoring on the next play to extend the lead to 4.

Miscellaneous Game Notes

  • Donny Marshall shouldn’t be announcing UCONN games – He is too much of a homer, and it shows. The admiration for Calhoun and Connecticut was too much in a game where Providence deserved respect for thoroughly beating the Huskies from start to finish. Marshall complaining about a Whaley foul call when he clearly hacked Reeves across the arm and questioning the flop call on Cole were just two examples of the bias showing. Marshall clearly knows his ball, but may be better suited to call Big East games when UCONN isn’t playing.
  • Free Throw Shooting Didn’t Come Back to Bite Them – Providence went 6-14 from the line. Thankfully, UCONN was seemingly just as bad from the line, going 7-13. Providence is going to be in too many close games this year to not execute from the charity stripe.

What’s Next

Tune in Monday to see where the Providence Friars are ranked by the AP Poll. My prediction is that the Friars come in at 22. That’s still way too low for their existing resume, but I digress.

Providence then plays host to the Georgetown Hoyas at home Wednesday evening at 6:30 PM. It is a stellar way to start 2-0 in Big East play and extend their win streak to 7 games.

It is certainly unchartered waters in Friartown. This team is playing incredible ball right now, and all Providence fans should enjoy every moment.

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