Welcome to the National Stage, Mr. Hopkins – Bryce Hopkins Erupts for 29 and 23 as Providence Stays Atop Big East

There is just something about Marquette and Providence that leads to instant classics. The Bat Game. The Floor Slippage. Blizzard Beach. Jonathan Xavier. This match-up has it all, for better or worse.

Last night lived up to the billing, with Providence doing everything possible to claw back in the game, give it away in overtime, and then recapture the victory in the second stanza of overtime. Providence won 103-98 over #24 Ranked Marquette to improve to 10-3 and 2-0 atop the Big East.

We break down everything from this heart palpitating match-up below.

Revisiting Keys to Game

We previewed the match-up here: https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/12/18/friars-look-to-start-2-0-in-conference-marquette-game-preview/#more-5493

Providence Playing to Strengths – Well, they did that and then some. Besides Hopkins singlehandedly dominating the glass against the Golden Eagles (how about that game clinching offensive rebound over two Marquette players?!), Providence utilized its size and strength to the tune of a 15 rebound advantage. Providence had 6 additional offensive rebounds, which led to second chance opportunities that they vastly needed.

Marquette fans were quick to point out the free throw discrepancy, but that is just how Providence plays. Providence doesn’t have the athletes like Ighodaro and Prosper to finish up and unders and be acrobatic. They get fouls drawn on them because they initiate and seek out contact. If Marquette didn’t foul Croswell and Hopkins, the 49 they combined for would have been higher.

More important, they limited the rebounds of Ighodaro and Prosper to only 11 rebounds.

Providence didn’t have many advantages in this game, but the frontcourt was one of them. The Friars leaned into that heavily, and this was the sole reason Providence won.

Containing Kolek – Defense was an issue all game for the Friars, and Kolek was a big reason for it. Marquette executed the screen game flawlessly to the tune of 78 points in regulation. They went 52% from the floor.

Kolek, returning home, scored 29 points on 11-15 shooting. Nobody had an answer for him. If I’m other Big East teams, I’m studying this tape as to how to defeat Providence in the half court set. Providence has a lot it needs to clean up defensively if it wants to play its way into the tournament. There were miscues on switches on D, and PC routinely let players blow by them for buckets at the rim. They need to remedy whatever is going on defensively ASAP.

Contain the 3 Ball – Jones and Joplin went a combined 5 – 14 from 3. Jones is a marksman from deep, but can sometimes shoot them out of games. Jones and Koplin compensated by going 12 for 20 on non-three point attempts. Efficient indeed. They both impressed me.

Other Items of Note

Bench Play (Outside of Breed) Remains a Serious Concern – Two games into Big East play, and the Providence bench has scored 19 total points. All of those points come from the “Silent Assassin” Alyn Breed. The lack of scoring outside of Breed is a huge red flag.

One of my Twitter followers astutely pointed out that Cooley is giving the bench players more minutes in the first half to manage foul trouble. When the second half hits, Cooley leans on a 6 man rotation to get them to victory.

While this has worked in two Big East games, I really don’t think it is a long term recipe for success. No question the starting line-up was lights out last night, but you cannot expect your bench to only contribute 5-10 points a game and win the majority of your games. It defies all basketball logic!

I’m hopeful that games against Butler and DePaul will give Castro, Pierre, and Moore more minutes to get their footing in Big East play. At this stage, they just seem overmatched. There will come a time where our starters are in foul trouble, and these young pups on the bench are going to have to grow up quickly.

Bynum Gets Going – Bynum finally got back on track on the offensive end with 16 points on 6-13 shooting. He looked like his old self, penetrating the lane at will and also hitting deep jumpers. Bynum needs to continue to work on his end of game situational awareness, as it has been an issue in several games this year, but I’m optimistic that the old Jared Bynum is here to stay.

Bryce Hopkins: What Else Needs to be Said? – Hopkins is everything and more for the Providence Friars. He absolutely willed this team to a victory when it appeared all was lost after the first overtime. Hopkins scored 29 on 8-14 shooting with 23 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block.

He will be a First Team All-Big East Player and will push for Big East Player of the Year candidacy. Hopkins is currently Top 5 in Big East in scoring and 3rd in Rebounding. I can’t recall a player this good for Providence. We may have to accept that this will be his only year donning the Black and White. If it leads to another NCAA Tournament birth, so be it.

Providence next travels to Butler on 12/29 at 6:30 PM EST.

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