Friar Basketball

Friar Offense Stalls Late at Xavier

Jones Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Providence was just where they wanted to be with nine minutes to play in Saturday night’s game at Xavier. Alpha Diallo made four consecutive free throws to put PC ahead, 50-47, at the 8:59 mark of the second half.

Xavier has played better of late, knocking off Seton Hall on the road last weekend before taking out DePaul four days later, but this is a Musketeer team that struggles to score. Pushing the lead to 7-8 would have felt like 15.

The Friars had a chance to extend their lead further after getting a stop on the possession following Diallo’s made free throws, but instead Diallo turned the ball over when trying to back his man down from beyond the 3-point arc. That led to a layup for Xavier.

Then Maliek White air balled a 3-pointer off of a curl, which resulted in another transition opportunity for the home team — one they would not waste as Paul Scruggs pulled up from three to put them ahead 52-50.

Xavier essentially plays without a point guard this year. Keeping them off of the offensive glass and out of transition are key, and those back-to-back transition buckets turned the tide on Saturday night.

Providence answered with a Nate Watson score after a timeout (he spun and scored while being fouled), but their offensive execution was flat out bad over the final eight minutes.

Xavier scored on their first possession after Watson’s make, and PC responded with an air ball 3-pointer from Diallo. That shot led to a Xavier dunk on the other end.

Freshman Greg Gantt traveled on Providence’s next possession, Scruggs made a free throw on the other end, and it was 59-54 with under six minutes to play.

Providence’s next eight possessions went as follows:

AJ Reeves (who took just three shots on the game after making 6-8 from 3 against Creighton on Wednesday) hit the side of the backboard on a pull-up out of an isolation opportunity.

Watson took a deep left handed hook that hit the front rim.

Reeves found Diallo inside, who scored on a goaltend call, and somehow it was still 59-56 with 3:12 left.

With PC down three, Diallo got called for a questionable offensive foul call with 2:38 on the clock.

With 2:16 left, Providence had a chance to tie with a three, or pull to within a point with a score. Reeves’ pass to Watson was picked off, however.

On the ensuing possession, the Friars were still within three points, but Diallo took a contested mid-range jumper with ample time left on the shot clock. The shot didn’t come close, Xavier grabbed the rebound, and got to the line on the other end. Xavier converted both free throws before David Duke countered with a drive and a score seven seconds into the shot clock. 61-58 X with over a minute left.

Providence played great defense, forcing a Naji Marshall heave at the end of the shot clock. With a chance to tie and plenty of time left to extend the game, Luwane Pipkins pulled up from 28 feet and missed a 3-pointer that Xavier grabbed with 27 seconds on the clock.

Xavier is a poor free throw shooting team, and the long range kill shot with nearly 30 seconds to play was a poor decision. The game was over from that point.

The Musketeers escaped with a 64-58 win, in large part thanks to Tyrique Jones, who had 14 points, 18 rebounds, and four assists. Saturday marked the third straight game in which the senior power forward grabbed 18 rebounds.

The intensity was high from the start of this one — so much so that it was impossible not to question if these teams just don’t like each other. Watson scored on a pair of dunks early, letting out screams both times and beating his chest repeatedly after being fouled on the second one. The paint area wasn’t for the weak in this one.

Watson finished with a team high 16 points on 8-13 shooting from the field, but fouled out in 24 minutes. His seven boards were also a team best.

Watson and Duke were the bright spots offensively. Duke nailed consecutive 3-pointers in the first half when Xavier started to pull away, and finished with 12 points on 4-8 shooting. Duke also had three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 36 minutes. Duke’s 3-pointers in the first half sparked a 10-0 Friar run after they trailed 16-10.

This was a night in which Providence likely wishes Duke took some of the shots of backcourt mates Maliek White (1-6 FG, 0-4 from 3) and Luwane Pipkins (2-10 FG, 2-9 from 3). Diallo played all 40 minutes, making 5-8 from inside the arc, but 0-5 outside of it.

Reeves took only three shots on the night, and one from beyond the arc. Providence shot 4-23 from 3-point range.

The two teams played to a virtual standstill on the glass (34-33 X advantage) and Xavier made one more 3-point attempt, but ultimately the deciding factors were the interior play of Jones and Providence’s woeful decision making over the final eight minutes.


John Rooke and Joe Hassett broke the game down honestly on the postgame radio show. It’s well worth a listen.


  1. rayi

    February 9, 2020 at 7:34 am

    No one stepped up when needed. Too bad, game was easily winable.

  2. Irish Spectre

    February 9, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    What rayi said.

    Was it me, or did Duke just not shoot much at all after a couple of key early 3’s??

    I do know that Reeves took 3 shots in total, despite his performance vs. Creighton; he needs to get out of his head, and just play.

  3. rayi

    February 9, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for having link to post game comments by pc radio team. Summed game up perfectly.

  4. John b

    February 9, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    This is one of the more undisciplined teams in the country. The decision making and shot selection coming down the stretch had to be embarrassing to the coaching staff. The 28 footer that Pipkins launched with lots of time left on the shot clock was icing on the cake. Pure selfishness.

  5. Marty

    February 9, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    It didn’t look like to me that aside from Pipkin nobody wanted to take the shots in crunch time. David Duke needs more shots. Great defensive effort I thought.

  6. rayi

    February 9, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    Except for Seton hall, the big east is a battle for every team almost every game. I just took a look back at who pc lost too in nov and dec and the records of those teams. Even with the shooting woes if they had played with this effort in the first two months they would have easily four more wins and a much higher rating and would be right in the ncaa tourney mix. They pretty much have to only lose at most two more games and then win two games in big east tourney to have a chance. Shame buried themselves with so many poor efforts to start the season.

  7. Den O

    February 9, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    The Friars have been competitive in their BE games, only one loss out of the five by double digits. Defense has generally been good, and the effort is there. Great video by John and Joe, Joe mentioned ‘off air’ that a ‘2 guard’ (Reeves) HAS to have more than 3 shots, couldn’t agree move. Their frustration pretty much sums it up for us Friar fans, so many opportunities but too many mistakes in crunch time. Those 3 non-league losses back in November will doom them for any meaningful post-season slot, unless they come up huge in the BE tourney. Hope this is a lesson to the coaching staff going forward, can’t be losing to Q4 teams and expect any love from the selection committee.

  8. Dr JRW

    February 9, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    At some point John Rook says Nate Watson is the player of the game. How can a big guy who gets out-rebounded by a bunch be ‘player of the game’? Rebounding is critical when you’re not a get offensive team. Both Watson and Young need to understand the strengths of the oppositions. If the opposition is taking a bunch of threes, the rebound are going to be long and random. Otherwise, get position on the opponents rebounders.

    The lads have to move the ball around to get clean shots, especially at the end of the game. Don’t take contested shots just because the game is getting close to the end. And, a high percentage 2 is better than a forced 3.

  9. rayi

    February 10, 2020 at 5:56 pm

    I just keep hoping Pimkins keeps getting fouled last few minutes of every close game as his foul shooting is terrific.

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