If Ed Cooley had the abilities to trick his Friar squad into thinking the entirety of the game is played in the second half, he may have a juggernaut on his hands. In two games this season, the Friars have outscored their opponent by a total of 33 points in the second half compared to being outscored by 8 points in the first half. Somewhat similarly to the Rider game, Providence started off slow in the first half before turning the corner in the second half. The silver lining is that Providence continued to grow its lead against Northeastern on the way to a 24 point victory rather than almost relinquish it like it did against Rider.
We will revisit the keys to the game for the Friars and identify a few positive developments that will be vital to a successful season.
We previewed the Northeastern game (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/11/10/friars-look-to-build-off-opener-as-they-host-northeastern/#more-5228) and were pretty accurate with what we expected coming into this game. Namely, we predicted a Bynum bounce-back, deeper rotation, and emphasis on slowing down Telfort. We detail some of the themes of the game below:
He Went to Jared – Bynum had a lackluster opening game against Rider. This game was a friendly reminder of what he is capable of and why a Big East POY run is absolutely in the cards. Bynum’s first step is elite, as he has the ability to consistently beat his man off the dribble and either finish at the rim or deliver an assist to an open teammate. Bynum finished with 21 points on an efficient 8-12 from the floor and 9 assists (one turnover) and was in complete control of the offense. When Bynum is playing this well, Providence will be very difficult to beat.
We Want Moore – Similarly to Justin Minaya last year, the addition of Moore this offseason was seemingly met with a shrug of the shoulders. Friar fans trusted Cooley’s evaluation and thought it’d be a quality add to a thin frontcourt. Beyond that, there really weren’t high expectations for the LaSalle transfer. So far, it looks like Cooley found another diamond in the rough. Moore was second on the team in scoring with 15 points and 5 boards. More important, he continues to show a diversified skill set on offense. He knocked down a 3, dunked off a drive, and finished in the post. Moore is going to be a huge asset to this team and will absolutely be a difference maker on both ends of the court.
Noah’s Arc – I cannot state enough how impressed I am with Noah Locke. He continues to surprise me with what he brings on the offensive end. Everybody knew he was a knockdown shooter from deep, but his ability to dribble drive and finish at the rim have caught me by complete surprise. He even had a beautiful assist to Carter for an and-one finish. This well rounded ability from the shooting guard spot is something we didn’t possess over the past few years, and it is going to further stress defenses playing the Friars.
Defense Still Not Up to Cooley’s Standards – We talked on our latest podcast that playing for Cooley isn’t an easy task. He demands a lot of his players on both offense and defense and won’t put up with minimal effort on defense. Too many times in this game there were players caught ball watching and were late to closing out on their man from deep, leading to a few made 3’s. The numbers won’t necessarily show it (Northeastern was 39% from the floor/38% from deep), but PC needs to tighten it up a bit defensively if they want to be a Top 25 ranked squad.
Jayden Pierre Belongs – His stats in his 11 minutes played won’t jump off the page, but certain players just look the part when they step on the court. Pierre fits the bill. He exudes a confidence out there, and the lights don’t seem too bright. He’ll be getting quality minutes the remainder of the season without question as Cooley begins to prepare for life post-Bynum.
Expanded Rotation – Excluding the walk-ons at the end of the game, Cooley went with a 10 man rotation last night. Corey Floyd Jr. saw his first minutes as a Friar, which was great to see. After two games, I think the Friars are going to roll with an 8 man rotation all season, with Castro and Floyd Jr. likely being 9th and 10th. Moore has exceeded expectations, and the backcourt is incredibly deep.
Improved Free Throws – Providence only attempted 19 free throws, but converted 14 of them to finish at 74%. This is a vast improvement from the 61% from the Rider game.
Shout out to the Students – It is easy to get a packed house for a Top 25 match-up at home. To have the number of students present for an 8pm Saturday night game against Northeastern is a testament to the culture Cooley has built on campus around the Friar basketball program. It is now the “cool” thing to do as a student (and likely a good pre-game before hitting the bars). I graduated over 10 years ago, and it is amazing to see the dedication from the fans.
Last year’s theme was trusting that the team would find a way to win. They were experienced collegiate players and just knew how to secure a W. This year, the calling card of the Friars may be that they are just more athletic than the opposition. Cooley has significantly upgraded the athleticism of this roster with the additions of Carter, Moore, and Pierre, to name a few. Carter converted a 180 alley-oop in game. Moore took one dribble from the 3 point line off a head fake and dunked a ball. Pierre had a tomahawk dunk in the open court off a steal.
These are all things that weren’t necessarily on the roster last year, and Cooley needs to figure out the optimal way to deploy the raw talent and athleticism on this team. I can’t recall a time where Providence could just “out-athlete” their opponent on the way to a victory. This may be the team that can do that with some consistency.
The Friars next play Stonehill at 5pm on Tuesday on FS2.