Friar Basketball

Nate Watson Leads Friars Over SJU

Nate Watson SJU St. John's Athletics

Last February Providence suffered its worst defeat of the season — an 80-63 home loss to a DePaul team that entered 2-9 in Big East play. PC trailed by over 30 to the lowly Demons, opening up all sorts of questions about the direction of the team in the season’s home stretch.

The next time out, the Friars wore pink breast cancer awareness uniforms and knocked off #3 Villanova.

Wednesday’s 78-59 win over St. John’s wasn’t nearly as dramatic as upsetting the eventual national champions, but it once again illustrated the resiliency of Ed Cooley’s teams since he took over in Providence.

After a listless performance against Xavier over the weekend, Providence faced a sizable challenge with St. John’s in town. Chris Mullin’s bunch came from 19 points down to knock off Villanova at Madison Square Garden for the first time since 2002 on Sunday night.

The Johnnies were on the rise, while PC had lost five of its last six. Providence defeated St. John’s at MSG earlier in the month, but that was a St. John’s team without Mustafa Heron (who scored 19 and 28 points the two games prior to Wednesday).

The Friars were the ones playing shorthanded on Wednesday. Steady center Kalif Young suffered a concussion against Xavier and was out, Drew Edwards was limited with the flu, and Makai Ashton-Langford injured his ankle in the opening minutes of the game.

Providence did have Nate Watson, and that was more than enough on this night.

For the second time in two weeks, Watson was simply too much to handle for the Red Storm. He shot 8-12 from the field, grabbed nine rebounds (four offensive), scored 21 points, and played a career high 35 minutes without Young in the lineup.

Let there be no doubt, Watson is emerging into not only an offensive focal point in his second season in black and white, but one of the best interior scorers in the league. Watson is averaging over 18 points per game over his last four outings, and scored 39 combined in two games against St. John’s.

Cooley’s group has had their way with St. John’s in recent seasons, winning seven of its last eight against them. The only loss came two years ago at home, when Providence allowed itself to get into a 91-86 track meet at the Dunk. A few weeks later, they dominated the return game in MSG by pummeling St. John’s in the interior. It’s a formula they have followed ever since.

Both games this year followed a very similar pattern:

  • St. John’s couldn’t crack 60 points in either game against Providence this season.
  • PC shot 7-17 from beyond the arc in both meetings.
  • Alpha Diallo had a 10 point, 15 rebound effort in New York, and finished with 16 points and 10 more boards Wednesday.
  • Isaiah Jackson went for 12 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the Garden, and came off of the bench to fill the stat sheet once again in the return game (11/9/5).

Providence never trailed in this one (jumping out to a 9-0 lead). The Friars scored 30 points in the paint, and got 24 points from its bench.

Key to the bench production was reserve guard Maliek White, who finished an efficient 4-7 from the field (3-5 from 3) with four steals, playing 33 minutes in the absence of Ashton-Langford.

St. John’s, either tired of being bullied by PC or frustrated at its inability to seize the momentum of the Villanova win, lost its composure early. Senior Marvin Clark II was whistled for his fourth foul early in the second half. He picked up his fifth seconds later after being called  for a technical. Clark, who visited Providence before committing to SJU, had been tasked with slowing Watson.

Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s star guard, shot just 2-9 from the field and finished his day with four points.

Providence will have to be equally as physical on Saturday afternoon when Marquette comes to town. The Golden Eagles own both the league’s most potent offense and top record (11-2 in the Big East).

Marquette’s only two losses in conference play were to St. John’s. Basketball is a sport of match-ups quite often, as Cooley pointed out after Wednesday win.

Saturday certainly isn’t the worst time for Providence to catch Marquette. A noon start Eastern time will be 11am Central, and Wojo’s bunch could have an eye on its trip to Villanova on Wednesday.

Regardless, the feeling entering the Dunk will be far different after a convincing win over St John’s.

Twitter: Kevin_Farrahar





  1. Wally

    February 21, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Great win for the Friars!! Sorry for Langford, he started at the point and you could see a very different team attitude. White did a great job. You have to be able to can a few shots as a point guard and White can do that. Langford as well. Duke no way. He lost the all again last night dribbling too much. Friars were passing the ball around looking for the open man.
    Looked awesome and was effective. Jackson broke out as well and that helped. Watson made moves I never saw before. They will be Marquette on Saturday for sure. GO FRIARS!!!

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