Friar Basketball

Friars Get Needed Win Over Stony Brook

Duke Closeup

It may not have been a giant leap forward, but we saw signs of the direction Providence needs to take to be successful going forward in Saturday’s 82-78 win over Stony Brook.

Aggression must have been the focus in the seven days off following an ugly loss at Rhode Island, as the Friars picked up full court defensively from the start and looked determined to take the ball to the rim early.

The Friars got another terrific night out of sophomore David Duke. Duke has been the shining light through 11 games. He scored 21 points last night, knocking down 4-6 from 3-point range and making all five free throw attempts he took. Duke is shooting nearly 53% on threes this year and making free throws at 85%.

Providence also saw the Alpha Diallo they’ll need now that the schedule reads Florida, Texas, Big East conference. Diallo is often praised for his versatility, but from this perspective what has made Diallo a productive player is his ability on the interior. He’s a double double machine at 6’6 — one who Ed Cooley said he has challenged to try to have a 20 rebound game this season.

After badly missing on a corner 3-pointer 90 seconds into the game, Diallo was sent to the bench. When he returned he spent most of his time in the paint doing all of the dirty work.

Providence led 34-24 at halftime, but Stony Brook started the second half on an 11-0 run. For a team that had lost four of its last five, things could have very well tightened. Diallo keyed a 12-0 PC answer with five points and a pure hustle play in which he grabbed his own missed free throw, then snatched a second offensive rebound, before finding AJ Reeves for a 3-pointer to push the lead to 42-35.

Diallo had 12 points and six rebounds in the second half, and 17 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists on the night. Those numbers would have looked even more impressive had his free throw struggles not continued (4-9), but after a year and a half of troubles at the line it is starting to feel as though that’s an aspect of Diallo’s game that Providence is going to have to live with. He added three steals and two blocks. Diallo will play big minutes because there isn’t another player on the roster who has proven he can fill the stat sheet in the variety of ways Diallo did last night. When he’s hitting the glass, making half of his shots from the field (6-12 last night, 1-3 from 3), having an impact defensively, and only turning the ball over twice in 36 minutes, Diallo becomes the player Providence needs.

Duke’s team high 21 points was matched by Luwane Pipkins, who shot 4-9 from the field, 3-7 from three, and made all ten free throws he took, while dishing out seven assists and grabbing four rebounds. Pipkins’ numbers were inflated in the final minute, as eight of his ten free throw attempts came when Stony Brook was fouling to try to extend the game, but credit Pipkins with making them all. In fact, he’s knocked down all 22 free throws he’s taken this season.

Pipkins again showed his fondness for the quick, kill shot three last night, but Cooley seems willing to let Pipkins find himself offensively.

Cooley and his staff also stuck with AJ Reeves through early shooting struggles. Reeves rewarded them by making a trio of 3-pointers in the second half. The first came after Diallo’s great effort play on the offensive glass (15:36 mark), the second after another offensive rebound and pass from Diallo with 11:35 to play. That shot pushed PC’s lead to 51-42. A minute later, Reeves buried his third straight to make it 56-42.

Credit the Wolves for fighting back in this one, but Providence countered every run.

Cooley should have been pleased with the tenor his team set early and its ability to bounce back from Stony Brook runs, but the rotation still feels like a work in progress. That will likely be the case until Nate Watson returns to form. Watson showed signs against URI, but just does not look like himself yet. He shot 3-8 on Saturday night in 19 minutes.

Cooley started freshman Greg Gantt and was rewarded early. PC scored right away after Gantt found Pipkins for a 3-pointer on a pretty skip pass (is Gantt the best passer on this team?) and on Providence’s next possession Gantt knocked down a 3-pointer of his own. That being said, Cooley may not fully trust the freshman yet, as Gantt playing sparingly in the second half. There’s a growing little buzz in Friartown to see more of Gantt, who had a pair of assists in 15 minutes last night. His progress will be one of the more intriguing storylines this year.

There are very few breaks on the schedule going forward. Providence heads to Brooklyn to take on Florida on Tuesday night, returns to Dunk to host Texas Saturday, then opens the Big East schedule by hosting a Georgetown team on New Year’s Eve that just dominated Syracuse yesterday.

One Comment

  1. Irish Spectre

    December 15, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    Credit a physical and good shooting Stony Brook that refused to go away. For that reason, several Friars early shoot possessions down the stretch were head scratchers, and in fact they paid for it at least a couple of times by missing and not getting the rebound.

    Hopefully Diallo will somehow break through his foul shooting malaise; due to his big role, he’ll continue to see a lot of time at the line. On the other hand, Pipkins being 100% is remarkable, especially give his no-arc shot!

    If the boys can show up over the next week vs. Florida in NY and UT at home, entirely winnable games vs. prominent programs, then Friartown will forget the past couple of weeks, and riding a streak into the conference at home vs. a now vulnerable Georgetown on a festive New Years eve would be just what the doctor ordered.

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