How do superior teams lose to inferior teams? A short list includes overlooking your opponent, being careless with the ball and not doing the easy things like make free throws. Well, Providence did all of that and more. The crazy thing? They still came away with a win. Good teams find a way to win even when they aren’t playing their best basketball. PC was able to gut out another close victory at home despite playing subpar basketball and having to overcome a Bynum absence.
We recap how the Providence was able to grab a victory from the jaws of defeat. In case you forget, Providence is 14-3, atop the Big East at 6-0, and awaiting an AP national ranking on Monday.
Revisiting Keys to Game
The preview article (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2023/01/06/friars-looking-for-their-9th-straight-win-host-struggling-st-johns/#more-5716) detailed everything Providence should do (they didn’t do these things) and everything they needed to avoid (they did everything they should avoid). Despite all this, they overcame the odds and added another win to their record.
Jared Bynum Absence – I thought Alyn Breed played relatively well in Bynum’s absence. Having to play starter’s minutes against Connecticut and then get the start against St. John’s will give any point guard fits. Breed has clearly been thrown into the fire and has come out battle tested and better for it. Breed scored 14, had 5 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists. He was his normal self on defense too (which is a compliment). The downside is that he couldn’t hit his open 3’s, shooting 25% on the night, and had 5 turnovers.
Breed and Bynum are just two very different players. Bynum is more of an offensive threat and can fill it up from deep. The ceiling is higher with Bynum on the floor, no question. Breed, on the other hand, is more of a pass first guard that relies on savvy, fundamentals, and strong defense. You know what you are going to get with Breed, which is probably one of his best qualities.
Bynum’s ability to score was missed in this one. That is for sure. Hopefully, he heals up ahead of the match-up against Creighton. Bynum has caught a lot of flack early in the year, but the Friars are a better team with a higher ceiling with Jared healthy and playing.
Posh and Curbelo – It wasn’t decided until a few minutes before the game whether these two would play. Posh was injury related, while Curbelo was discipline related.
Posh was his usual pest self on the defensive end. He added 14 on the game. I expected him to be a First Team All-Big East PG, and I’m disappointed he hasn’t added layers to his game. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Curbelo impressed me. We knew from his time at Illinois that he was creative with the ball and put his teammates in good positions to score. He had 4 assists in this one and had a lot of success in the screen game. Providence had trouble dealing with that. If he can keep his head on straight and come to a mutual understanding with Mike Anderson, which may be asking a lot, he is a great guard option off the bench.
Battle on the Glass – Soriano was a beast on the glass, totaling 10 rebounds. The aggregate was a wash, however. The Johnnies had 36 rebounds to Providence’s 35.
What makes Providence such a pain to play against is that EVERYBODY rebounds. Croswell had 9 boards, Hopkins with 7, Carter with 5, Breed with 4, Locke with 3. It’s a total team effort, and I think Cooley has reiterated the importance of team rebounding because the Friars are just not a big team. Rebounding is an effort thing, and I think effort may be the calling card of this squad.
Interior Defense & Getting to the Line – Another game, another outcome where Providence shoots significantly more free throws than the opposition. PC totaled 34 free throws to St. John’s 20. It is just how Providence is built to play, and the rest of the Big East needs to accept that.
The issue with getting to the line so much is that you need to convert when you get to the aforementioned charity stripe. Providence made 22-34 free throws, going 64.7% on the day. Thankfully, St. John’s one-upped them by going 12-20 for 60%. Providence needs to be shooting 75% or so from the line to continue accomplishing what they are accomplishing. I’ll chalk this up to a Connecticut hangover and lack of focus.
Friars Need to Control the Ball – The reason this game was so close was due to the 16 turnovers by the Friars. Many of these turnovers led to easy buckets for the Johnnies. It seemed like whenever Providence was ready to put the game away, the Friars would have a turnover to keep St. John’s in the game. It was very frustrating to watch the Friars have so many self-inflicted penalties.
St. John’s is a terror to play, but especially without your best ball handler. It was a growing experience for Breed, as I mentioned above, and baptism by fire for Pierre.
Levels to Locke – I didn’t think Locke could one-up his game against Connecticut, but he appears to enjoy feeding me crow. I’ll happily oblige. Not only is Locke connecting from deep, but he is now actively hunting for his shot. In games earlier this season, it seemed like he was shooting only when open. Now, he is creating offense.
When defenses leave him open, he is burying 3’s. On top of this, he is incorporating the pump fake into his game, and defenders are biting. There were a few scores where his defender was cooked after jumping on a head fake. He was then able to score on a drive.
Locke is coming on strong and adding him to the scoring arsenal alongside the rest of the starting five is a terrifying thought for the rest of the Big East.
There were so many Friar teams of old that would have a monster upset win and then follow it up the next game with a clunker. All the goodwill from the win would have been sucked out of the arena with a loss.
Not anymore. Cooley has the Providence program in arguably the best place it has ever been under his tenure. Providence is transitioning from plucky underdog to the hunted in the Big East.
A true test comes in the next two, with another Midwest road trip against Creighton and Marquette. I have my own thoughts about the next two games, but Cooley and this team continue to exceed my expectations. So, I’ll just enjoy this ride.