Friar Basketball

PC’s Approach, Execution Key Against Marquette

Duke vs. Marquette Providence College Athletics

During the height of Luwane Pipkins’ struggles this season I went back and watched a few of the best games from his UMass days to see what looked different. The one game that stood out was when he scored 27 points against a nationally ranked URI team in 2018.

Pipkins played downhill against what was a terrific defensive backcourt — splitting double teams for short jumpers, finishing in transition, beating defenders backdoor, and finding space off the dribble from mid-range.

It is somewhat ironic that I watched him against URI, as his low point this season likely came at the Ryan Center, when Pipkins went 0-5 in 17 minutes and looked like a shell of the player Providence fans had seen the three years prior.

There were questions — fair questions — about how Pipkins would fit in with the 2019-20 Friars heading into the season. This was a shoot-first point guard who had taken a lot of shots at Massachusetts and was now trying to adapt to a veteran team and a new coaching staff, all while being billed as a cure-all for the point guard woes that plagued Providence the season prior.

When the bottom fell out for this team in late-November and for much of December, fingers were pointed directly at Pipkins — and rightfully so on many nights. His shot selection was costly, and Ed Cooley moved him off of the ball a few weeks ago to alleviate some of the decision making burden.

When Pipkins has been good, the Friars mostly have been as well. That was the case when he had 13 points, six rebounds, and four assists against Texas, and followed that up with 30 combined points the next two games out — wins at DePaul and over Georgetown. He helped close out Butler with 22 points (4-9 from 3) on the road in early February as well.

Still, it never felt like we were seeing a comfortable Pipkins until the past week.

Boy, did he look comfortable on Saturday against Marquette.

The Friars survived frigid starts against both Seton Hall and Georgetown over the past week, but Pipkins got rolling early against the Golden Eagles — scoring PC’s first seven points.

His first two makes were shades of his 27 point performance against URI — he started playing downhill. Those early shots seemed to get Pipkins going, and he finished with 17 points at the break. By the end of the afternoon, Pipkins finished with 24 points on 9-14 shooting from the field. He made all five two point attempts he took, came up with four steals, four rebounds, and twice found David Duke for alley oops.

It was the second straight uber-efficient game for Pipkins, who shot 5-7 from the field and scored 16 points at Georgetown. He has scored 53 points over Providence’s last three games, and has provided the Friars with a much-needed backcourt scorer.

“I’m his third coach in five years,” Ed Cooley told the media postgame. “It takes a lot of time to get trust. It takes a lot of time to learn an environment — a culture, discipline, accountability.”

Pipkins is learning firsthand what PC’s culture has been under Cooley — and the rest of us are getting a reminder: no matter how dire things can look during a season under Ed Cooley, the Friars most often seem to drag themselves off the mat.

They have done it again this year.

No, the mission is not complete. Far from it.

The story of the 2019-20 Friars will be the team that dug itself an incredible hole in November and December, only to scratch and claw its way through a tough Big East in time to play games with NCAA tournament relevance in March.

Providence now has nine conference wins with three games left to play. Only the most loyal Friar supporters saw this as a possibility two months ago.

Saturday against Marquette saw the Friars execute Cooley’s game plan flawlessly. Box score scanners will see that Markus Howard scored 38 points in this one. What they didn’t see was when a majority of Howard’s points came.

The soon-to-be All American guard scored 19 of his 38 points in the game’s final 5:11. That scoring binge started when PC was up 21 points.

Howard took 25 field goal attempts. He put up 17 free throws.

No other Golden Eagle took more than six shots.

Marquette had four assists and 18 turnovers.

In other words, while Howard was being flanked by Duke and Maliek White (he finished 10-25 from the field and 3-9 from deep) his teammates became bystanders. Providence’s defenders rarely had to rotate with all of the attention on Howard, who had been bottled up for much of the afternoon prior to his late outburst.

Providence, on the other hand, finished with 16 assists and five turnovers. The team that was known for wanting to play ugly raced up and down the floor, flinging lobs, finishing reverse layups, and burying deep ones (PC made eight 3-pointers in the first half, including three from AJ Reeves). All six Friars who played 20+ minutes scored in double figures. PC shot nearly 51% from the field.

This was Providence’s most complete effort of the season. They led by as many as 17 in the first half and never let Marquette get closer than nine in the second.

And with that, the Friars’ run to the top half of the Big East standings continues. At 9-6, PC is 1.5 games up on Butler and Marquette for fourth in the league. They are a game and a half back of Villanova, who they play in Philly next Saturday, for third.

Regardless, the focus of this group is the NCAA tournament, and in order to reach that goal Providence will likely have to win two of its final three games (they close out with Xavier and DePaul at home) and could need another win in the Big East Tournament to seal the deal.

March games will matter in Providence once again.


  1. Kurt'92

    February 23, 2020 at 12:01 am

    Great article. The team is really playing well right now and, obviously, can’t afford any more road bumps until the BET. Should be a 4 seed which is shocking. Oh, to play St. Johns again…

  2. Jack Durkan

    February 23, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Great write up, Kevin. Definitely their best game of the year eclipsing their previous game where Alpha excelled. They have the makings of a superb team, precisely because of the best bench in the country. Appreciate their overall mentor, Father Shanley and the superb coaching of Cooley and company. Thanks Friars for displaying the excellence we knew was the ❤️ heart of this team

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