Friar Basketball

Bench Bigs Impress in Win over Fairfield

Croswell Fairfield

Anyone else not realize just how badly they needed the return of college basketball? Here are key takeaways from Providence’s 97-56 win over Fairfield, as well as a few picked up pieces from the Empire Classic. 

1. On an afternoon with several positives, perhaps the most glaring was the play of transfer big men Noah Horchler and Ed Croswell off of the bench.

There was speculation that Horchler, a transfer from North Florida who averaged over 16 points and nine rebounds in his final season there, would start alongside Nate Watson in the Friar frontcourt. Providence was also set to redshirt Ed Croswell after he transferred in from La Salle last summer until the NCAA granted all players an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic. 

Their impact was immediate on Wednesday. Horchler was very active on the glass and showed signs of an advanced interior game in finishing with 11 points and nine boards in 27 minutes. While Croswell, perhaps the nation’s most prolific offensive rebounder the past two seasons, snatched four offensive rebounds in 14 minutes. He closed the afternoon with 10 points, six rebounds, and an assist, while making 5-7 shots from the field.

It’s hard to remember the last time Providence could roll out two bigs off of the bench capable of grabbing 10+ rebounds, and each brings a different dimension. Horchler provides a little more offensive pop, while Croswell is just physical.

2. How high have expectations risen for David Duke? The junior scored 18 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists, and was hardly mentioned in the postgame press conference. This level of output is almost expected. Duke made all five free throws he attempted, and knocked down 3-4 from 3. If Providence is to do damage this year Duke will have to emerge as a star. Kevin McNamara penned an insightful piece this week on how Duke seems to be on the verge of stardom.

3. More encouraging signs? Eight assists and zero turnovers from Jared Bynum in his Friar debut, and AJ Reeves flashing his midrange game. 

4. Duke picked up two early fouls and the first player off of the bench was redshirt sophomore Kris Monroe. This may have come as a surprise to some, but Cooley cited an inclination to lean on players who have been in the program early this season. Monroe, who looks leaner coming off of injury a year ago, delivered a steady performance with eight points, three rebounds, and a pair of assists. His corner 3-pointer was a sight for sore eyes. Providence would love to see him develop into an outside threat in year three with the program.

5. Nate Watson was the story of the game, finishing with his first double double since PC’s overtime win at Boston College two years ago. Fairfield had no answer for Watson, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, making 8-11 field goals in the process. Watson’s eight defensive rebounds were a positive sign. 

Expect Cooley to put a lot on Watson this year. He has consistently spoken of Watson’s importance in preseason interviews this year, and told the media after the game that he expects Watson to thrive in a featured role.

6. Boston College and Rhode Island will meet in the consolation round of the Empire Classic tonight. Both fan bases left Thursday night losses feeling encouraged, however.

The Rams fell 94-88 to #18 Arizona State in the opener from Mohegan Sun. URI star Fatts Russell picked up four fouls in the first half and finished just 3-13 from the field and 1-6 from deep in a matchup with ASU stud Remy Martin. Martin went for 26 points, six rebounds, and five assists, convincingly winning the matchup between two of the better guards in the country.

URI trailed by as many as 16 in the first half, before rallying to take a 67-64 lead in the second. Former Georgetown transfer Antwan Walker scored 14 straight second half points during a Ram surge, while Jeremy Sheppard shot the lights out (4-4 from 3) in the 94-88 loss. 

It looked like Boston College was going to knock off #3 Villanova in the nightcap. BC led by nine with 13 minutes to play, thanks in large part to former Friar Makai Ashton-Langford, who was making his debut for the Eagles. Ashton-Langford (15 points, six rebounds, three assists) consistently beat Collin Gillespie off of the dribble and finished creatively at the rim. He sparked a 12-2 BC run with a pair of drives and a pretty dish to Quinnipiac transfer Rich Kelly for a 3-pointer early in the second half. Then he made a pair of threes to bump BC leads to eight and nine points. Ashton-Langford started 6-7 from the field, before missing his final four attempts to end a strong debut 6-11 from the field. 

Perhaps most glaring in this one was the ease with which BC got to the rim against Nova. The Wildcats recovered late, thanks to 14 second half points from sophomore big Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and clutch shots from Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels. The Wildcats won by nine, but this was a virtual standstill for 38 minutes.

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