Friar Basketball

Previewing PC at St. John’s

Watson SJU Providence College Athletics

The last time Providence and St. John’s met, the Friars came away with a 63-58 victory, thanks in large part to their ability to slow leading scorers Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa. Heron shot 2-9 from the field, and Figueroa was even worse, finishing 4-17 and 2-12 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Providence got 19 points (7-15 from the field) from Alpha Diallo. Diallo was the only Friar to score in double figures on a night in which PC shot 35% from the field and 23% from deep, yet still pulled out the win.

Another defensive struggle would not be a surprise when these two clubs meet again in Queens on Wednesday night.

If the Johnnies are to win, they’ll likely do so on the defensive end. Ken Pomeroy ranks their defense 63rd in the nation, while the .814 points per possession they surrender places them in the 87th percentile in the nation, according to Synergy Sports. The Johnnies are sixth in the country in steal percentage, and are rated in the 90+ percentile in stopping opponents from scoring in the post and on the offensive glass.

Big East play has not been kind to Mike Anderson’s club, however. They are 2-9 in conference games, with both wins coming over last place DePaul. It has been a disappointing run for a team that entered Big East play with a pair wins over teams in the top 10 in the nation in the NET rankings (Arizona and West Virginia).

This is not a good offensive team. St. John’s is 128th in offensive efficiency on Pomeroy’s rankings and score on .854 of their offensive possessions (25th percentile nationally). They rank 324th in the country in effective field goal percentage, and are 300+ in shooting from both two and three point range.

Figueroa, a Lawrence, MA native, is scoring nearly 15 points per game on 39% shooting from the field and 35.9% from deep. He and Heron (13.8 ppg, 38.5% from 3) are the big names, but newcomer Rasheem Dunn could be the greatest challenge for the Friars.

Dunn, a redshirt junior, has been a terrific addition to Anderson’s club. He is a blur with the ball in his hands, and is most effective scoring out of pick and roll situations. His .967 points per possession in the pick and roll is an excellent number — among the highest in the country.

Providence has been more than solid defensively against virtually all offensive attacks this year — with the exception of slowing pick and roll ball handlers. The Friars did a terrific job against Kamar Baldwin and Marcus Zegarowski in wins over Butler and Creighton, and will need to be as solid Wednesday against Dunn. Maliek White will be critical in that regard.

The Friars are looking to bounce back from losing what they had to feel was a very winnable game at Xavier. Ed Cooley said his team was “undisciplined” in the final ten minutes against Xavier, noting that Providence’s questionable offensive decisions turned into opportunities for X on the other end. The Friars led by three with under nine minutes to play, but scored just three field goals in the final 10 minutes against Xavier.

As disheartening as Saturday’s offensive execution was for Cooley, he has to be encouraged by what he’s seen from Nate Watson. Watson led the team with 16 points in 24 minutes before fouling out. He made 8-13 shots from the floor. The 13 shots field goal attempts matched a season high for Watson, who also put up 13 against Texas. He certainly looks to have turned the corner after spending much of the season recovering from a knee injury.

Providence is 6-5 in Big East play, good for a 5th place tie with #19 Butler. Xavier sits a game back at 5-6, while Creighton, Villanova, and Marquette are all just a game ahead at 7-4. The Big East sports five teams ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2013’s realignment (#10 Seton Hall, #15 Villanova, #18 Marquette, #19 Butler, #23 Creighton). The Friars are the only team with a winning record in conference games that is not in the top 25, thanks to their struggles in non-conference play.

Expect Saturday to follow a similar pattern as January’s PC/St. John’s tilt. The Friars were able to grind out a win at home on that night, and would love to welcome first place Seton Hall to the Dunk this weekend with a 7-5 conference record.


  1. Marty

    February 12, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    Another pathetic performance throwing the ball all over the place 11 turnovers. Zero offensive flow. I’m as frustrated with this team as coach Cooley.

  2. Marty

    February 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

    Twenty four turnovers for the game. These guys couldn’t pass the ball to each other if they were 3 feet apart. No big dance this year again. I’m not happy at all. I had high hopes for this team.

  3. rayi

    February 13, 2020 at 8:10 am

    Let’s see, the game is 40 minutes and you have 24 turnovers so more than one every two minutes. My wife works for an eye doctor. Can the team come in for eye check, maybe they are all color blind and can’t tell who is on what team. That is really so hard to believe. Please don’t if they quality accept an nit invite.

  4. rayi

    February 13, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Was noted by Jim Donaldson that for this being the premier program at pc they have won just one ncaa game in 23 yrs. For all the hype this program gets in this state they really have not accomplished much.

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