Friar Basketball

Providence Needed This One In the Worst Way

Luwane Pipkins

One of the true trademarks of the Ed Cooley Era has been the program’s ability to pick itself up off the mat when things looked bleak. 

The 2014 Big East championship team started 0-2 in conference play, including a 30 point drubbing at Villanova. That group was 6-6 in the Big East before winning four of its next five (with the lone loss coming in double overtime to Villanova). That stretch included road wins at Seton Hall and Butler and a double overtime victory versus Marquette.

A year later it was a three game December swoon at the hands of Kentucky and a pair of subpar opponents in Boston College and Brown that sent Friartown reeling.

In 2016, Providence was ranked in the top ten nationally before falling part in January and February. They were 17-3 at one point, then fell to 19-9 before rallying to win four straight games prior to the Big East Tournament semis (the infamous loss to Villanova in which a questionable foul was called on Ben Bentil in the closing seconds). 

No Cooley club better represented the program’s resiliency than the 2016-17 group that opened 1-4 in the Big East, and was later 4-8 before reeling off six wins to close out the regular season. 

Two years ago, the Friars were good enough to beat top five teams in Villanova and Xavier, but bad enough to get blown out by lowly DePaul. That group eventually took would-be national champion Villanova to overtime in the Big East Championship game. 

Cooley once said that overtime thriller versus Nova in 2018 was the most exciting game he has coached in during his time at Providence. The Wildcats went on to maul the NCAA tournament field following their win over the Friars.

Since that loss, we haven’t seen the resiliency that had become the trademark of Cooley’s time here. Last year’s club finished 7-11 in conference play and felt disjointed throughout the season.

Then came the past month. 

Cooley’s Friars have never struggled in the way they have through the first 12 games of this season. PC entered the Texas game 6-6 overall, with losses to more than beatable opponents in Penn, Northwestern, Long Beach State, and Charleston, and a couple of ugly losses to Rhode Island and Florida.

As a result, the past month has brought a level of vitriol never before seen in the Cooley Era. It’s been ugly. 

The ugliness has been about more than a slow start, in fairness. There is an increasing level of concern about an offense that has looked broken for the second year in a row — and not for a lack of talent. Cooley and his staff have locked down a variety of high level recruits, and added a former All Atlantic-10 transfer last spring that was supposed to solve the point guard issues that plagued them a year ago. 

The elephant in the room through the season’s first month and a half, however, has been Cooley’s flirtation with the Michigan opening last May. 

Cooley interviewed with Michigan, but returned to Providence with a contract extension in hand. In the press release announcing his return, Cooley was quoted as saying he wanted to stay home, the Friars are his family, and that in recent months PC opened the best practice facility in the country in the Ruane Development Center. 

There was a portion of the fanbase that was disappointed, and others that believed that Michigan is one of the premiere jobs in the country — that he at least had to listen. What so many underestimated at the time was the impact this would eventually have on a sizable segment of the fanbase, especially with the paint still drying at the new practice facility. 

There wasn’t a feeling of bitterness heading into what many expected to be a strong season for the 2019-20 Friars, but once things started to go south there has been a level of negativity that has gone far beyond the typical social media outliers and shit stirrers. 

With that as the backdrop, Providence took to the court on Saturday for its final non-conference game of the season against Texas playing for much more than simply a win. PC was coming off of a 32 point loss to Florida in Brooklyn, and faced a level of angst no other Friar team has experienced under Ed Cooley. 

They responded with a 70-48 beatdown of a Texas team that entered 9-1 on the season. The catalyst was the much-maligned transfer point guard Luwane Pipkins. Pipkins has badly struggled throughout his first month and a half in black and white, but he was the biggest reason why Providence was able to open a 43-28 lead at the break. He knocked down four 3-pointers in the first half (a sight for sore eyes after Providence shot just 1-18 from deep against Florida) and entered the locker room with 13 points, three assists and three rebounds. 


The Friars as a team made 7-14 from three in the first half, with David Duke (2-3) and AJ Reeves (1-1) rounding out the shots from beyond the arc.

Cooley also got a lift from Emmitt Holt, who had been inserted into the starting lineup for injured freshman Greg Gantt. Holt played perhaps his best half of the season, grabbing seven boards and scoring six points before halftime. 

Texas obliged by missing 11 of the 12 3-pointers they took in the first half — many of the misses on a great looks. 

The second half was a slugfest, with Texas shooting 28% in the final 20 minutes and the Friars cooling off (10-32 from the field, 1-7 from 3). Credit Providence for playing with more aggression. Providence grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the second half (four from Nate Watson), while Kalif Young snatched nine of his ten rebounds in the second half. 

Texas was limited to 31% shooting from the field and just 3-21 from beyond the arc on the day. Despite all of those misses, PC limited the Longhorns to nine offensive rebounds — a credit to the interior players of Providence. 

Due to injuries to Gantt, Jimmy Nichols, and Kris Monroe, Cooley’s rotation was limited to eight players, with all eight of them playing over 20 minutes and each making at least two field goals. 

The Friars led for over 37 minutes on Saturday, and got the resounding win they needed with ten days off before they open conference play on Dec. 31 against Georgetown.


  1. B Hall

    December 22, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Is this game a true indication of things to come or just a blip on the screen? We will need to see much more of this if We are to have any trust in Cooley or His team. I am down on Cooley for all the rhetoric about Providence being His dream job and maybe the players feel betrayed also. So until I see guys making free throws and having some mental toughness, I will have reservations about this team.

  2. GJ

    December 22, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Agreed- whether or not this game is a turning point, remains to be seen. But there are some positives to take away from this game: great balance; Pipkins can still play and is an X-factor when he picks his spots; PC left 10+ points on the floor do to missed lay ups and free throws; there is a lot more we can get from Watson and Reeves. Duke is a steadily becoming a great all around guard and the more aggressive he is the better he will be. While he only flashed his talent in this game, if Reeves continues to shoot the way he has recently and adds that mid-range game, there is no limit on how good he could be. Worth tuning in for though!

  3. Wally

    December 22, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Work in progress: Lots of lapses in defense as well as offense!Texas had a lot of open shots and on their drives as well. Defense just disappears. BUT a new beginning is there next week. GOFRIARS!!

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