Friar Basketball

Three Things to Watch for Against Butler

AJ Reeves Providence College Athletics

Providence was suffocated by Butler when the two teams met on Jan. 10.

It was a game that was perfectly set up for a raucous Dunkin Donuts Center: PC entered 3-0 in conference play following a pair of one point road victories, Butler was ranked 6th in the country, and the 9pm Friday night start allowed for Friar fans to relax themselves prior to tip off.

PC supporters couldn’t have been faulted for entering the early January contest confident. Despite playing through struggles, Providence swept three games from Butler last season, winning in overtime in late February in Indy, leading by nearly 30 points at home in the Big East regular season finale, and then storming back to roll to an 80-57 beating in the Big East Tournament.

Butler took Providence’s crowd out of the game from the start earlier this month, however. They held the Friars without a point for nearly seven minutes to start the game, and took a 9-0 lead out of the gate. The last time it was a one possession game was when the Bulldogs led 2-0.

Butler shot 55% from the field and limited Providence to 31% (and 6-25 from 3).

The best Friar on the floor that night was senior Alpha Diallo, who finished with 21 points (8-18 FG, 3-8 3-pointers) and six boards.

Fast forward three weeks and expectations for both teams have been reset a bit. The loss to Butler kicked off a stretch in which Providence has lost four of five games — albeit with four of those losses coming against top 25 clubs. Most recently, the Friars fell 64-60 against Villanova at home on Saturday.

The Nova loss was similar to the Butler one in that the Dunk felt ready to explode all afternoon, but was keep quiet for long stretches due to offensive shortcomings.

Butler hasn’t had much more luck in its five games since beating Providence. They lost three straight after that win before winning a wild one against Marquette, then topping a fading Georgetown team on Tuesday. Kamar Baldwin went absolutely nuts against Marquette, scoring 29 points after halftime.

The Friars travel to Indiana to take on Butler on Saturday afternoon with a few intriguing storylines.

Diallo was benched for nearly all of the second half against Villanova. He missed all six of his field goal attempts and took two bad shots soon after the halftime break. How will he respond?

Diallo’s numbers have dipped in conference play, but from this perspective, perhaps more disappointing than his shooting percentages are the 1.5 assists he averages in Big East games. Early in his career Diallo seemed destined to be a 15/8/4 type forward, but his assist totals have dropped as a senior from over 3 last season to 2.4 this year. Obviously, that average has taken a hit in Big East play. Providence’s shooting woes certainly don’t help his cause, but on a team begging for playmakers, Diallo has to be more of one.

If there was a bright spot offensively in the loss to Villanova it was the play of Nate Watson. The junior forward has looked slightly out of sorts since returning from a knee injury suffered in the preseason. In a sign of just how much he lost his rhythm, Watson started the season 2-13 from the free throw line, but has shot at a near 82% clip at the stripe in eight Big East games.

Watson started against Nova and had likely his best game of the season — 18 points (7-12 FG, 4-4 FT) and nine rebounds. Virtually all of his offense was of his own doing, as the junior center just owned the offensive glass.

If Providence is forced to manufacture offense against Butler on Saturday, Watson on the offensive boards will be key.

The Villanova game also brought glimpses of AJ Reeves playing more downhill. Reeves has been primarily a 3-point shooter in his sophomore year, but he came to Providence as a scorer, not just a shooter. He takes six shots a game, with four coming from beyond the 3-point arc.

While some of the focus over the final month of the season will be on whether or not Reeves can find consistency from deep, perhaps a better sign for the future of the program will be to get him going in a variety of ways. Reeves finished with nine points and six rebounds against Nova, combining with David Duke to grab 16 rebounds. All ten of Duke’s rebounds were on the defensive end. No other Friar had more than three defensive rebounds.

Reeves’ and-1 off the glass and pretty step back 3-pointer in transition were big momentum shots in the first half, and reminders of the offensive potential he possesses.


  1. Wally

    January 31, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Here we go another “must win”!!Not sure what’s going to happen or who’s going to show up. Villanova tried to give the game to the Friars. The crowd was awesome and the Friars stunk offensively. If Diallo had a normal game and scored 10-14 points Friars win. Potentially, I think they are a lot better than Butler. Watson & Diallo have to score, they have to be the steady part of the offense for the Friars to win. GOFRIARS!!

  2. Jimbo

    February 1, 2020 at 3:01 am

    Friars are athletic, they hustle they work hard they have pretty good team chemistry and they play pretty good defense. If the game was judged on hard work and style points they would win. Ufortunately they just can’t shoot. They work hard to get open looks and they just can’t put the ball in the basket. I see this game as no different they will do everything right except put the ball in the basket and they will lose

  3. rayi

    February 1, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    Here we go again,another game we can win. Under 5 to go, rushed bad 3 pointer by Diallo and then he makes bad pass. Also missed two foul shot

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