Friar Basketball

Friars Just Can’t Find the Right Combination

Jones Dunk vs. PC Xavier Athletics

Ed Cooley has tried every lineup combination possible this season, and after a 75-61 loss to Xavier that Cooley deemed “one of the worst games I’ve ever coached in” he went with maybe the last hand he has left to play this year — us against the world.

“What I like about this situation here, if I’m going to take a positive from it, the fact that there’s a lot of non-believers,” Cooley said after the loss. “And in my life we always prove people wrong. There’s a lot of non-believers in the Friars right now. And as I told our guys, ‘there will be better days, today’s not our day.’ We’re gonna have everybody saying ‘oh, you’re bad, you suck, you’re this, you’re that.’ At the end of the day we’re a good group of young men looking forward to the next opportunity.”

Inconsistency has been the theme of the 2018-19 campaign. Inconsistent play up and down the roster, evolving rotations, and games like Saturday against Xavier and Wednesday at Villanova in which the Friars look like two different teams in the span of 40 minutes.

Providence played very well on Wednesday for 33 minutes, trailing by a point with seven minutes to play before cold shooting once again reared it’s ugly head, leading to a 23-6 Nova run to close it out.

PC controlled the first half against Xavier, leading by nine with under a two minutes to play, and eventually headed to the locker room ahead 32-26. It was a six point lead that felt like 15. Nate Watson made five field goals, David Duke scored seven in the half (including an and-1 off a pretty crossover), and PC got seven more from Alpha Diallo.

For the second game in a row, Providence fell victim to a 23-6 run (h/t to Kevin McNamara) — this one came out of the locker room to essentially end it early.

The second half numbers were ugly: Xavier shot 73% from the field, 6-7 from 3, and out-scored PC 49-29.

After Xavier ripped off quick 8-0 spurt out of the halftime break, Cooley made a move that was almost emblematic of the season: he pulled all five players off of the floor.

He later tried to go small to get some scoring.

Providence played Jimmy Nichols in the first half for the first time in a while.

The search for the right combination has clearly been Cooley’s biggest challenge in 2018-19. It has been a challenge because there have been very few constants on this team.

In November it appeared as though the eventual constants would be Diallo flirting with double doubles regularly, Watson scoring on the inside with consistency, and freshman AJ Reeves as a tide-turning gunner. Despite early season losses to Wichita State and UMass, there was still plenty of time to figure out the rest.

Then Reeves went out with a foot injury and PC’s outside shooting tanked. Junior guard Maliek White seemed to find his offensive footing early in Reeves’ absence, and sophomore point guard Makai Ashton-Langford rebounded well from his early season struggles with additional playing time. Drew Edwards also forced his way into more minutes with big outings at Georgetown and against DePaul.

Still, none of the guards separated themselves from the pack, resulting in Cooley mixing and matching a crowded backcourt — a task that became all the more challenging when Reeves returned in a late January win over DePaul.

Edwards was playing too well to head back to the bench. White, Ashton-Langford, and Duke all had their moments, but couldn’t separate, and Cooley had to find a way to monitor Reeves’ minutes while ingratiating him back into the lineup.

It’s a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario. It’s challenging for players to get into rhythm without extended minutes, yet who could Cooley justifiably send to the bench?

If the Friars were an NBA team they would be ripe for a three-for-one type of trade to pare down an overcrowded rotation. But they aren’t, and the coaching staff is still looking for the right combination.

Nine different Friars have started a game this year. They have used three different starting lineups in the last five games.

Cooley’s teams have had their struggles in November, but February and March is typically when they begin to pull it all together.

They are still searching for answers in 2019.

Twitter: Kevin_Farrahar



  1. Wally

    February 17, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    I thought the Friars were ready. I felt they would finally have it all together. Never expected such a disaster. They played no basketball at all in the 2nd half. No energy. If I had saw them for the fist time I would have thought, hey these guys don’t like each other, no communication no team work! Xavier shot 73% because the got dunks and lay ups. Pushed the Friars around. Watson received a “symbolic” punch in the mouth and had little reaction. Offensively they did not move the ball around with quick passes looking for the open man. Wasted so much time! Xavier keyed on Duke when he had the ball: he was just dribbling with no strategy & they made him look awful. No sense of emergency. Their press sucked. Well, the only positive is that they hit the very bottom!! Can’t get any worse!!! We hope! Moving forward give Langford the point. White as his backup. Duke will be great but not as the point, not this year. Use him as the 6th man at the 2. Not sure Reeves is healthy enough but this team needs him. He has to be in there. GOFRIARS!

  2. Vincent Tracy

    February 17, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    In the first 4 min of game the starters were playing well Then Cooley as he has done most of the season pulled Duke and Reeves Why substitute so quickly when they are playing well Duke and Reeves need to get all the time they can do they are better next year Font likeVolleys constant substitution and how deep the rotation is We need a PG Mal isn’t it TOs and no shot Drinbles too much into trouble Game days are not good for Cooley

  3. Tim Blair

    February 17, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    I saw it differently PC is one of the best defensive teams in the league. But they can’t shoot at all. When they get beat, it’s a combination of the other team hitting 3’s at a high percentage from outside the normal guarding range, and then it opens up the inside play. NONE of the current players are shooters (Not sure About Reeves

  4. Anonymous

    February 17, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    No team leader to take control offensively when needed. Diallo makes way too many turnovers.

  5. Tony

    February 17, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    The guy who has disappointed me the most this year is Jackson. Hes the senior on the team and built like a monster. His overall numbers, about 9 and 5 dont look terrible but he has totally no showed some games on 1 for 9 or 1 for 10 shooting. I was hoping for more from him. And after years of Ed playing only 6 or 7 man rotations out of necessity I can’t believe I’m saying it but they have too many guys. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the guards transfer out after this year.

  6. Wally

    February 17, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    crazy because all those kids, Nichols, Munroe, Reeves were recruited for their shooting. Your right defense has been solid but what happened yesterday, 2nd half was pathetic. Duke def needs to play but not at the point. Killing the team really. I think the rest of the way Cooley tells Langford your the guy, that would help him. Don’t believe there is a choice. Remember Langford is a top 30 kid. Not having that floor leader is killing them!!!!!

  7. Irish Spectre

    February 17, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    Yeah, Xavier got white hot, but Providence gets a big assist for that. Wow; normally the Friars at least play defense, but in the 2nd half, they didn’t even do that! Coach described the team as “listless,” and that only begins to tell it. It was hard to watch, especially in Providence’s own barn. Where’s the pride?

    Offensively, they were reduced to going to Watson inside for turnaround jumpers vs. Xavier’s formidable big, and that’s about it, while Xavier’s dropping treys at the other end. The Friars showed little ball movement and little movement without the ball; everyone seemed afraid to shoot.

    Diallo didn’t have a good day, uncharacteristically, and I wonder what’s up with Reeves.

  8. Derec Lamendola

    February 18, 2019 at 4:48 am

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  9. Wally

    February 19, 2019 at 1:33 am


  10. Derec Lamendola

    February 19, 2019 at 4:08 am

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  11. Michael Cherigo

    March 9, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    Every tme I watch a Providence Basketball Game I see nothing but forced shots and the guards trying to force drives to the basket when they are not there. Also what is it with not playing Drew Edwards more. ? He is one of the best outside shooters PC has and no one sees him out on the wing or in the corner. He stands there waving his hands and the other guards are forcing the ball into the paint ! ridiculous! He is also one of the best defensive players PC HAS also. Turnovers ! Turnovers! another factor!

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