Friar Basketball

What to Watch For: Friars Visit St. John’s


Providence travels to New York to kick off Big East play against St. John’s on Thursday night. While the Johnnies were picked to finish sixth in the Big East by the league’s coaches in October, they have gotten off to a 10-2 start under Chris Mullin.

Here’s what to watch for:

The status of Kyron Cartwright and Alpha Diallo. Two of the Friars’ three most important pieces continue to be hampered by ankle injuries. There is no word yet on if either will be ready for tomorrow night.

Diallo was a headache for St. John’s as a freshman last season. The teams split their two games a year ago, with Diallo going for 18 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in a home loss in January before closing out the regular season with a 17 point afternoon at the Garden.

Sophomore Maliek White is expected to be shelved longer than Diallo or Cartwright with a leg injury.

Impact Transfers. Mullin struck gold on the transfer market two years ago by signing Justin Simon (Arizona) and Marvin Clark (Michigan State). The 6’7, 230 pound Clark is one of five Johnnies averaging in double figures this season. He’s making 3-pointers at a 50% clip while shooting over 90% at the free throw line. The Friars made a push for Clark after he decided to transfer, and had him on campus for a visit before he pledged to Mullin.

While Clark has been steady, Simon has been terrific. He’s 6’5, but rebounds like a big (8.2 rpg) and dishes like a point guard (4.3 apg). Simon has had five games of 11 rebounds or more and is one of three St. John’s players averaging over two steals per game.

Which takes us to…

An Improved Defense. Prior to the season, the challenge with St. John’s was supposed to be slowing down the explosive sophomore backcourt duo of Marcus Lovett and Shamorie Ponds. Lovett has been limited to seven games this season, Ponds is averaging over 20 points per game (albeit while shooting a surprisingly poor 21% from deep), but where this group has impressed is on the defensive end.

They currently have the 11th rated defense in the country (adjusted for pace), and in addition to the three players averaging two steals per game, 6’11 Tariq Owens is fifth in the country with 3.7 blocks a night. Owens is a springboard athlete who gets off of his feet quickly.

Their defense looks to be improved, but it was around this time a year ago that Providence boasted a top 15 defense before being torched by Butler and Xavier in its first two Big East games. We’ll soon find out just how improved this defense is.

Arizona State Battle. The job Bobby Hurley has done at Arizona State may be the story of college basketball at this point of the season. The 12-0 Sun Devils are ranked 3rd in the country by the AP voters, with wins over Kansas, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, and Xavier.

St. John’s gave them all they could handle in early December. Trailing by double figures in the second half, the Johnnies cut ASU’s lead to a point with under three minutes to play before falling late.

Ponds Now a Star. Providence also pushed to sign Ponds prior to his senior year in high school, and its easy to see why the staff was so enamored.

The Brooklyn native averaged 17 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game last year — a season that included 22 points at the Dunkin Donuts Center and 29 when the teams met for the second time.

While he has struggled from beyond the arc, Ponds’ overall numbers are terrific (20.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists). He’s an explosive scorer who has already scored 20 or more points in seven games, while living at the free throw line (35 FT attempts in his last four games).

Ponds will certainly push for 1st Team All Big East this season.

A Look Back:

PC and St. John’s played two very different contests a year ago. The Friars seemed happy to engage them in a track meet in January’s 91-86 loss. Just over a month later, Ed Cooley changed his game plan as the Friars dominated St. John’s in the paint in an 86-75 road victory.

On an afternoon in which Rodney Bullock and Kyron Cartwright combined to score eight points, PC was able to put up 86 points as Diallo (17), Isaiah Jackson (18), and Emmitt Holt (14) went to work inside.

Here’s a look back at PC’s March victory:



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