Friar Basketball

Keys to a Trademark Win

Cartwright Jersey

There aren’t enough game balls to go around after this one. #15 Xavier rolled into town with a 15-1 record, and Chris Mack’s club has been getting a lot of Final Four buzz in recent weeks.

Things weren’t so rosy in Providence. The Friars were coming off of a painful loss in their home Big East opener, blowing a six-point lead with just over a minute remaining in regulation prior to falling in overtime.

Even while playing without leading scorer Rodney Bullock, Providence displayed renewed grit against Marquette and hammered away at the Golden Eagles inside the 3-point arc. Despite the amazing performance of Markus Howard (52 points), Ed Cooley and his group couldn’t help but feel they let one slip away.

Cooley wasn’t looking for silver linings in the immediate aftermath of the Marquette loss, yet what we saw today came in part because of what occurred Wednesday.

Isaiah Jackson made the most of Bullock’s absence on Wednesday, scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds, while making 9-10 at the free throw line. As I’d written after that performance, Jackson had two good games against Xavier a year ago, scoring 27 points combined, and continued that on Saturday.

If Jackson wasn’t the best player on the floor against Xavier then he was the most efficient: 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, 4-6 from the field, 2-2 from deep, 8-8 at the free throw line.

The emergence of Jackson isn’t only critical because of his production, but his versatility. The Friars rely so heavily on Kyron Cartwright to create offense, but Jackson threw a series of pretty passes today. He brought toughness in finishing through contact on drives and taking on the challenge of slowing Xavier’s terrific wings.

Over his last two games Jackson scored 37 points and made 17-18 at the free throw line.

Another key development from Wednesday night that was overshadowed by the loss was Cartwright’s healthy return to the floor. He tweaked an injured ankle last Sunday at Creighton, and bounced back with 29 points versus Marquette.

The senior point guard was uber-aggressive against Xavier, finishing with 19 points, nine assists, a pair of 3s, four steals, and just two turnovers (he had nine versus Marquette).

Cartwright was limited to two points in short minutes against Creighton, but in Providence’s other three conference contests he’s gone for 21, 29, and 19 points.

The tone-setter early was Bullock, who scored 11 of his 17 points in the first seven and a half minutes of this one, including a game-opening 3 off of a curl.

The Marquette loss was also where we first saw a more assertive Kalif Young. Young’s impact on Saturday went well beyond the stat sheet (2 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal). For a Providence team so desperate for a physical interior presense on the defensive end, Young’s activity was an important plus. Young and Watson combined for seven blocks, as Watson swatted four shots in just seven minutes (foul trouble kept him tied to the bench).

Then there’s Cooley. The Friar coach was despondent (well, despondent for Cooley) in the press room after the inexplicable loss on Wednesday night. The ever upbeat head man has shown small signs of frustration in recent weeks, openly contemplating what it would be like to coach a healthy version of the team he recruited and deflecting any positives against Marquette by saying nothing was good enough.

Everything was good enough on Saturday, from his team’s energy (which has been lacking at times this season), its ability to chase a great shooting Xavier team off of the 3-point line (5-18 from 3), and its defensive execution down the stretch.

With a 6-8 point advantage midway through the second half, Cooley went small for a decent stretch. Xavier’s burly Kerem Kanter (24 points, 12 rebounds in 20 minutes off of the bench) went to work inside, out-muscling Bullock repeatedly, yet Xavier couldn’t make up enough ground playing through Kanter.

Cooley gambled that his small lineup could execute offensively and match Kanter, while refusing to double and give up open 3s. He was right.

Kanter scored to cut PC’s lead to five with 11:36 to play, and Jalen Lindsey answered with a 3-pointer to push the advantage back to eight.

Kanter scored four more field goals in the next three minutes and Providence countered with a bucket of its own after each of those makes. Whether Cooley was baiting Mack or not, repeatedly going to Kanter inside took Xavier’s 3-point game out of the mix and led to a scoreless second half for Trevon Bluiett — perhaps the best scorer in the Big East.

As awful as Cooley had to have felt after Wednesday’s loss, he has to be equally thrilled on Saturday night. His team pulled it all together on Saturday afternoon and got themselves a trademark win.


  1. Pingback: Friar Starting Five: Sunday Edition - Friar Basketball

  2. collins

    January 7, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    They needed this win. That Marquette loss was as tough as last year’s Depaul loss. They do rely too much on Cartwright though just giving him the ball with 10 on the shot clock. Luckily he’s the best PG in the Big East. I love Watson and some of those foul calls on him were harsh. Ashton-Langford better develop some kind of shot in the next year or two or guys will play 5 feet off him. Worst shooter on the team.
    Thanks for writing the articles.

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