Friar Basketball

AJ Reeves Shines in Win Over #21 Creighton

AJ Reeves Friars.com

You could sense a big night coming from AJ Reeves at some point soon. Providence got just that in Wednesday’s 73-56 win over #21 Creighton.

Reeves was sidelined with a head injury the last time Providence and Creighton met. He watched like the rest of us as his former AAU teammate David Duke went nuts — scoring 36 points in a game PC had to have felt like they deserved to win in Omaha. Duke made 6-8 from beyond the arc that afternoon, and his two free throws put PC ahead by five with 1:40 to play before Creighton pulled it out late.

There was no sweating out the final minutes of the rematch. Not with the Friars shooting the way they did in the second half.

Reeves scored 19 of his 22 points after halftime, making 5-6 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes. Like Duke a few weeks prior, Reeves finished 6-8 from beyond the arc.

This was a game Providence trailed 30-22 with just over four minutes to play in the first half, but over the final 24 minutes of the game they outscored the Jays 51-26.

PC shot 60% in the second half, made 8-10 from beyond the arc (Duke added a pair of big 3s late), and 5-6 at the free throw line in the final 20 minutes. For a team that has defended well throughout conference play, only to come up short offensively on many nights, the second half outpouring that turned the Dunk into a madhouse was more than a sight for sore eyes.

The Friars are now 6-4 in the conference, which puts them in a four-way tie for third place in the Big East with Creighton, Butler, and Marquette.

Creighton entered this game with a NET rating in the top 15 in the country — as did Butler on Saturday before Providence went on the road and defeated them as well.

Providence went to a zone in the second half, which stunted an offense that came out of the locker room firing. Sharpshooting Mitch Ballock opened the game by making his first five of his shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers. Creighton led 19-9 after his early outburst.

Ballock would not make another field goal over the game’s final 35 minutes — missing his final eight shots from the field.

While the zone stymied Creighton in the second half, the aggressive defense of Maliek White was key in the first. Drawing his second straight difficult defensive assignment, White hounded Creighton’s talented point guard Marcus Zegarowski to the tune of 1-10 shooting from the field. His lone field goal came on a breakout following a turnover. This comes on the heels of White forcing Butler’s Kamar Baldwin into an 0-5 start and 0-5 close from the field on Saturday.

Creighton coach Greg McDermott cited Providence’s “positional length across the board” as a problem for his group. “We let the zone paralyze us a little bit,” McDermott explained before noting that his team had good numbers against zone defenses prior to tonight.

The lasting image from this night will be the smile returning to the face of Reeves. He couldn’t help but let it out when he made a pair of 3-pointers in the final two minutes as the Dunk exploded.

Reeves’ confidence hasn’t wavered, according to those in the know. Since returning from a head injury suffered against Butler on Jan. 10, the sophomore has shown signs of breaking out. Tonight he put it all together.

In his return at Seton Hall, Reeves quickly swished a pair of corner 3-pointers and drilled another from the top of the key that was waived off due to a foul just before he could rise up in time. We saw him playing downhill a bit against Villanova, while finishing an and-1 and knocking down a tough step back trey. Then against Butler on Saturday he helped keep PC afloat with an early three, finished a floater while being fouled, and bounced home a midrange jump shot.

“AJ doesn’t lack for confidence, bro,” Ed Cooley told a reporter after the game.

And now the Friars don’t lack for it either. They’ve rebounded from the devastating loss at Creighton, and a pair of narrow defeats to top 10 teams in Seton Hall and Villanova with consecutive wins over ranked teams in Creighton and Butler.

Different players are starting to step up in different games. Saturday brought a big day from Luwane Pipkins, while tonight Reeves and Alpha Diallo were key. Diallo returned to the starting lineup and fought through some turnover issues (six) with a very efficient shooting night: 14 points, 4-6 from the field, 2-2 from 3, 4-6 at the stripe, to go along with six rebounds and three assists.

Cooley was happy with his team’s effort in the postgame press conference, but clearly not satisfied with where they stand. PC’s head man noted what little margin for error his team has, and said tomorrow’s practice will be the hardest they’ve had all year in preparation for Saturday night’s road test at Xavier.

The Friars will head to that practice feeling good about themselves after a pair of huge wins over the past five days.

7 Comments

  1. B Hall

    February 6, 2020 at 5:29 am

    Two great wins in a row.Seven games left, gotta win at least four of those and do well in tourney to have a shot at NCAA.

  2. Anonymous

    February 6, 2020 at 11:06 am

    8 games left

  3. Anonymous

    February 6, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Huge dub for the boys. If they can play like this in terms of their offensive efficiency and defensive tenacity they can beat anyone. Anyone. If you disagree with that you are wrong. I loved Cooley’s lineup today with pip off the bench and Diallo with the start. Roll Friars

  4. rayi

    February 6, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Entirely different team with duke and reeves playing to potential. Team rebounding best I can remember.

  5. Irish Spectre

    February 6, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    …been waiting for this from Reeves; we were told it was there, and we finally saw more than just a hint of it; hopefully it’ll become more of a habit.

    …glad to see Diallo beginning to move back to form.

    Belatedly, as one who has complained about Pipkins, I was really happy to see him go off vs. Butler; really that was his (and Coach’s) win. It’s not the first time he has been huge, but I have a hunch that Coach was hoping/expecting more of it when it enticed him to Providence.

    The bottom line is that the roster is stacked with guys who are very capable of big time performances. Offensively there has been kind of a malaise over the team, but maybe it’s lifting just in time.

  6. Carl

    February 8, 2020 at 11:30 am

    Finally the Friars learned how dangerous they are.

    This is what we were hoping for all year. They dug a terrible hole in NC play but at least they have the talent to dig out and maybe even make some big noise!

    Just get to the dance. It’s wide open this year! Except Baylor — they’re pretty boss.

  7. Marty

    February 8, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    Diallo starting to play like he really cares the last two games. Still has too many turn overs for being a senior. We need him to play like a first team projected player. Love the defense. Tonight’s game is going to be a dogfight. Good luck guys, let’s get it done.