Friar Basketball

Senior Night Came Early for Providence

Diallo Marshall Xavier Athletics

Alpha Diallo played 40 minutes in Wednesday’s 80-74 win over Xavier.

He finished with a team high 25 points on 9-14 from the field, 1-1 from three, and made 6-7 at the free throw line. In a second half in which only fellow senior Luwane Pipkins made more than one field goal for the Friars (and he hit two), Diallo attacked the rim and posted up on his way to 7-10 shooting from the floor.

Pipkins continued one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in Providence history, scoring 23 points, including five in the final 70 seconds. Pipkins blew the roof of the Dunkin Donuts Center twice in the closing minute, knocking down a 3-pointer late in the shot clock to push PC’s advantage to four, and then rolling in a floater to seal the win 30 seconds later.

Providence has now won five straight games, with four of those coming against likely NCAA tournament clubs. During that stretch Pipkins has gone for 13, 16, 24, 27, and 23 points. He has hit at least three 3-pointers in the past four games and is the biggest reason why the Friars are shooting over 40% from long range during this five game surge.

PC waited nearly the entire season, but the Luwane Pipkins that took over so many games offensively at UMass is now here in Providence. There is a fearlessness that comes with peak Pipkins. It can lead to bad shots at times, but it can also result in what we saw last night.

Pipkins was on fire early, making three of the first four 3-pointers he attempted. Pip then proceeded to miss his next seven shots from deep. Not coincidentally, a Providence team that started 8-12 from three, ended the game 9-22.

But the beauty of Pipkins’ game is his seemingly boundless confidence — the confidence that looked surprisingly rattled at times earlier this season. Yet, this is March and Pipkins has returned to the scorer that saw him average 21 points per game in an all A10 sophomore year at UMass. As a result, the seven straight misses did nothing to deter him from firing away with just over a minute to play in a game with so much NCAA tournament meaning for both Providence and Xavier.

After providing the knockout blow to Villanova on Saturday, Pipkins did the same to Xavier four days later.

And yes, he’s feeling it right now.

Wednesday night was one of those nights at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Pipkins and David Duke brought the crowd to its feet in the first half, Diallo was critical in holding off a hard-charging Xavier team, then Pipkins brought them home late.

It is easy to forget just how many big games this senior class has played in over the past four years. Diallo was a machine during the 2018 postseason, with 19 points and nine rebounds against Creighton in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals, 17/6/3 versus Xavier in the semis, and 22 and 10 in the championship against Villanova. When Ed Cooley needed a bucket in a tie game in the final minute of regulation of the championship, he drew up a play for Diallo, who converted.

A week later, Diallo finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists against Texas A&M in the NCAA tournament.

The Diallo we saw on Wednesday night against Xavier looked a lot like the 2018 postseason version. Diallo set an early tone by posting up Tyrique Jones, perhaps the most physical player in the Big East, early and drawing a foul. He posted up both Jones and Naji Marshall in the second half, and passed up open 3-pointers for explosive drives and scores in a hotly-contested final 20 minutes.

The Friars also received a clutch second half basket and the typical steady defense from Kalif Young, a player who Cooley has been effusive in his praise of. Cooley reflected on the season winding down for this senior class after the Xavier win, “When you see Kalif, Alpha, and Maliek (White) all came in together. Emmitt (Holt) seems like he’s been here longer than Father Shanley. Then add in Pip, it’s emotional as a coach because you’ve seen these kids from 16, 17, 18 years old when you’re recruiting them — to now being 21, 22, 23. In Emmitt’s case 44, it’s like your children, it’s like your kids that really grew up right in front of you.”

He continued, “And one of the biggest grown ups is this person right here (pointing to Kalif Young). I couldn’t be more proud of him on his development. His parents have a lot to be proud about, and we as a school have a lot to be proud about. He has got great things ahead of him.”

The resurgence of Providence’s class of 2020 means the team still has a lot ahead of itself this season. On Saturday they will try to become the first Friar team ever to win 12 Big East conference games in a season — a feat virtually no one thought possible weeks ago. They have defeated every team in the Big East this year.

This team could have easily fractured at various points this season, but they have found their footing at the perfect time — and because of that, these Friars and this senior class has a chance to do damage in March.

One Comment

  1. Wally

    March 6, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Great article and says it all!!! GOFRIARS!!!

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