You just knew you were watching high level basketball as this game went on. It was two teams throwing haymaker after haymaker at each other. The Friars were the last man standing at the end.
Entering tonight the Friars were 34-1 in their last 35 contests at The Dunk/AMP. The streaking Creighton Blue Jays came into town poised to get a W, but it was the Friars who walked away with a 94-86 win in 2OT. Led by the heroics of Devin Carter on both ends, the Friars were able to withstand the Creighton offensive onslaught and come out victorious.
With the win, the Friars get their 11th Big East win and are tied with the Bluejays for third place in the conference. It also snapped their eight game win streak, which isn’t fluky. Creighton had a lull early in the season, but they are a legitimate Final Four threat.
It was a total team effort to get this win, and we break down how it happened.
Critical Defensive Stops- In a game full of offense, it was two critical stops on the defensive end that ensured the Friars won. The Jays would have the ball with the shot clock off and a chance to win in regulation and the first overtime, but Providence stopped them both times. At the end of regulation, the Friars came out of a timeout and totally caught the Jays by surprise with a blitzing half court trap. Creighton was only able to get a desperation lob up to Arthur Kaluma that just rolled off the rim. Corey Floyd Jr. was the unsung hero there, providing resistance to Kaluma at the rim.
Then in the first overtime Devin Carter took Ryan Nembhard off a screen and blocked his attempt at a game winner. It was a great switch by Cooley to put his best defensive player on the guy who was torching the Friars throughout the second half and first overtime.
Devin Carter, in short, solidified his DPOY award tonight. He held Baylor Scheierman to 4/15 shooting, but he seemingly guarded everybody and got stops for Providence whenever they needed them. Carter not being on the national DPOY watch list is a travesty, as I don’t think there are many better two way players in the entire country. He’s special.
Carter/Hopkins/Locke Power the Offense- Devin Carter was excellent on defense, but that didn’t stop him from getting a career high 25 points. He was 3/5 from beyond the arc and converted some timely drives to the rim. McDermott commented postgame about how going under screens and allowing Carter the open look was part of the strategy. He made them pay. While the topic of conversation has been around Hopkins as BE POY, I think Carter should start getting some looks for First or Second Team All Big East.
Bryce Hopkins poured in 20 points and played all 50 minutes of this basketball game. He is the first Friar to do that since Bryce Cotton (thanks John Fanta for that nugget). Hop fell in love a little bit with his mid range jumper, but he knocked down two triples and in the later stages started attacking the rim.
One of the most important plays of the game was the hustle effort in securing a rebound on a loose ball. That showed more to me than any bucket. It’s clear he is bought in to this team.
We also can’t forget Noah Locke who also had 20 points and killed Creighton’s defensive strategy with a flurry of midrange jumpers. He was aggressive and wanted the rock, something I love to see from bucket makers. He has really come into this own and become another valuable weapon for the Friars. He knows who he is on this Friar squad now, which makes him even more dangerous.
Ed Croswell Rings the Bell – Make no mistake that Ryan Kalkbrenner can take over a game on both ends. He is legitimately an All-Big East player and one of the top bigs in the entire nation. Kalkbrenner still had 15 and 7, but he was in foul trouble early and was somewhat ineffective in the latter part of the game. Croswell was probably giving up 5-6 inches on Kalkbrenner, but more than held his own. Kudos to Ed for bouncing back here and going toe-to-toe with Kalkbrenner.
Bench Discrepancy – Creighton has arguably the top starting five in the entire nation, but little proven depth beyond the five. Despite this game going 50 minutes, Creighton’s bench only played 15 total minutes while Providence’s tallied 37. We already talked about the key play Floyd Jr. made. Pierre had a critical 3. Breed played strong defense and was a steadying force in the second overtime. This type of depth is what helps a team in the Big East Tournament when you have to play 3 games in 3 days.
The Curious Case of Bynum – Jared went 1-9 from the floor and 0-3 from deep and seemed to have his confidence crater as the game progressed. Nembhard is a really difficult guard for any player, and he continually was beating Bynum in the second half and overtime periods. Byum’s confidence appeared to be in the tank, and I was surprised Cooley didn’t make the sub for Breed in the game earlier. It almost bit them. It reminded me a bit of the St. Louis game where the half court pick and roll sets were used to exploit Bynum’s defensive shortcomings.
While the negatives have been discussed, he also dished out 6 assists to 1 turnover. In his last two games, he has totaled 16 assists. He puts his players in a position to score and gets them the ball in ways other Providence point guards cannot.
In Bynum’s two games since returning to the starting line-up, he has gone 3-21 from the floor and 2-10 from deep. Providence NEEDS to continue playing Bynum heavy minutes because it is only a matter of time before he gets out of this scoring funk, but Cooley also needs to be ready to pull the plug faster if he is getting exposed on the defensive end. You can live with Bynum’s defensive shortcomings when he is distributing the ball well and scoring. When he isn’t, Cooley needs to turn to Breed or Pierre. The stubbornness to keep Bynum on Nembhard and keep him in the game for as long as he did almost cost them the W last night.
The question of him coming off the bench also has to be brought up. At this stage of the season, you have to live with the good and bad and hope Bynum can steady the ship offensively. As we’ve said all year, the best version of this Providence squad includes Jared Bynum. No question.
This was a big win for momentum. A loss against Creighton, and Providence is staring at a 2 game losing streak with Villanova coming into town.
I wasn’t at the Nova home game last year, but the phrase used to describe the atmosphere was “nervous energy”. If PC lost last night, that same energy would have been felt Saturday. Now, Providence can build upon this massive win and look to take care of business against the Wildcats. Providence still needs a lot to go right for them to have a chance to repeat (looking at an X win tonight to help the Friars), but the win against Creighton moves them up a seed line or two come NCAA tournament time. Providence wants to avoid that 8/9 line, and I think PC is squarely in the 5/6/7 range with a few more games to go that can further strengthen the resume.
This win was massive for the resume, for the program, and sends a message to the team that they can play with legitimately anybody in the country.