Friar Basketball

Diallo, Duke and a Wild Saturday

David Duke Dribbling

What a wild Saturday of basketball.

This writer’s day started with St. John’s upset of #4 Duke, peaked during yet another Providence v. Marquette thriller, and closed with a glimpse into the future.

Let’s start with the Friars, where Ed Cooley and Co. have turned what some feared was becoming a lost season into yet another push toward the NCAA Tournament.

Providence and Marquette seemingly always play a thriller these days. Last season gave us PC’s 14-1 run to close out a crucial late season win, and a one point road victory — the program’s first ever win in Milwaukee.

Providence started slow on Saturday (trailing 10-2 out of the gate), but eventually controlled the second half by bullying Marquette in the paint.

After making 3-10 from beyond the arc in the opening half, the Friars all but scrapped the 3-point shot in the second, taking just three and not making one from deep. It didn’t matter, as they obliterated Marquette from inside, getting to the free throw line for 33 attempts in the second half alone.

They also took the three ball away from Wojo’s bunch. Few will ever forget Markus Howard’s 52 point night at the Dunk last month. Virtually all of those points came in the second half and overtime of that Golden Eagles’ victory. That wouldn’t be the case on Saturday. Marquette was held without a 3-pointer in the second half (0-8) and the explosive Andrew Rowsey (19 points per game) was exploited on the block defensively before fouling out early.

Keys to Providence’s turnaround have started with the return to health of Kyron Cartwright and Alpha Diallo. The Friar offense was adrift without a healthy Cartwright and the scoring punch of Diallo.

Diallo hasn’t just returned to health, he’s quietly become one of the Big East’s toughest matchups in his sophomore season. In conference play he’s not only averaging over 15 points per game, he’s grabbing 7.8 rebounds. The rebounding figure is good for third in the conference. He’s seventh in steals, third in offensive rebounds, and fifth on the defensive glass.

Beyond the numbers, Diallo has been an offensive catalyst for the Friars. His 16 points led the way on Saturday.

And when Isaiah Jackson plays well, this team is difficult to beat. After a terrific five game stretch, he struggled in losses to Seton Hall and Villanova, but rebounded Saturday with 13 points, seven rebounds, and baskets at critical moments.

Getting a win on the road was huge for Providence. Their RPI jumped to 27, giving the Big East six teams with RPIs under 30, including #2 Villanova and #3 Xavier. PC has wins over Xavier, Creighton (23), and Butler (26), while Marquette’s standing could jump into the top 50 by season’s end.

Providence is now 15-8 on the season, 6-4 in conference play, and will be favored in its next two games (Georgetown on Tuesday and DePaul Saturday — both at home).

David Duke Returns Home

The National Prep School Invitational is in its 19th season and returned to Providence this week. The showcase has produced nearly 100 NBA players and hundreds of Division I prospects.

This year’s field includes AJ Reeves’ Brimmer and May club and two games featuring Providence native and PC commit David Duke (Cushing Academy). Both will be Friars next year. Both have huge potential.

Duke’s Cushing group ran off to a 20-2 lead and blew past Cheshire Academy Saturday night. The pairing would have had a far different feel had 7’3 center Chol Marial not transferred from Chesire in the offseason. Marial is the #4 player in the class of 2019 and now attends IMG Academy in Florida.

Most of Duke’s minutes were logged in the first half, when I unofficially had him down for nine points, six assists and five rebounds by the break.

At the least, Duke will have a defensive impact as a freshman. He’s a 6’5 point guard with tremendous athleticism and the will to dig in on defense. His length is an issue for anyone he’s guarding, and his athleticism makes him a menace in a pressing/trapping game, guarding one on one, or potentially at the top of a zone.

Offensively, he kept things simple on Saturday. Making kick-out passes to open shooters and not forcing his own offense. He made 1-2 shots from deep and pulled up and swished another jumper in transition with his toe on the 3-point arc. Duke had four or five transition dunks, with his biggest highlight coming late in the first half when he threw down a one handed dunk on the break, came up with a steal on the next possession, and threw down a loud reverse slam to complete the sequence.

Duke and Cushing return to floor on Sunday morning, in what should be a winnable game against one time NEPSAC power Bridgton.

Powers Fall

Saturday was beneficial to Providence’s RPI away from Milwaukee as well.

The story of the day was St. John’s taking out Duke, 81-77, in a noon matchup at Madison Square Garden. Chris Mullin’s club has lost its first 11 games in the Big East, but simply played harder than the #4 Blue Devils in the second half. The Big East’s worst team took out the ACC’s best, as slowly but surely the college basketball world begins to acknowledge that the Big East is legit.

Former Providence recruit Shamorie Ponds dazzled in NYC, scoring 33 points to lead St. John’s.

Duke’s loss triggered a long day for college basketball’s most famed programs. Kansas, Kentucky, and Arizona all fell on Saturday. The Arizona lost to Washington at the buzzer — the same Washington team that Providence defeated on a neutral floor in November.

One Comment


    February 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    great win for the friars especially on the road on the road in the big east is so hard to do ! GO FRIARS !

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