Battle gets 1st W as Head Coach in Friar win
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The Providence Friars went on the road to face off with Depaul on Saturday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL. Both teams had key scratches before the game including Blue Demons point guard Charlie Moore, along with forward Jimmy Nichols and point guard Jared Bynum for the Friars. Freshman Alyn Breed and senior transfer Noah Horchler remained in the starting lineup in their spots for Providence. One late scratch that no one expected to see was Providence head coach Ed Cooley. The 10th year head coach traveled to Chicago with the team, but reportedly dealing with a “non-COVID related pregame illness.” Assistant Coach Jeff Battle stepped up in Cooley’s shoes and came away with a 57-47 victory over Depaul.
David Duke seemed to be finding his groove back after a couple of quiet scoring outings for the Junior guard. He led the Friars with 17 points along with 13 rebounds tonight and has now recorded 17 points in back to back games as they take their second win in a row. He continues his junior campaign, leading the Friars averaging 17.4 PPG on the season. Senior center Nate Watson who is right behind Duke with 17.2 PPG, was scoreless for the first 36 minutes of the game. He tallied 4 points and 6 rebounds finishing 2-8 from the field after being in foul trouble for most of the game. Another big contributor for Providence on Saturday night was A.J. Reeves, adding 13 points on the night. Reeves, who is a very streaky scorer, is that third guy the Friars need to be able to count on to add to Duke and Watson’s lethal scoring ability. With the Blue Demons having a quiet offensive night, their scoring was balanced, but their leading scorer was David Hall coming off the bench with 10.
A surprise to all Friar fans and a great sign was seeing their point guard Jared Bynum find his way onto the floor early in the second half after missing 9 games since January 2nd, dealing with a groin injury. If Providence wants to make a late season push to punch their ticket to the big dance, having their starting point guard back will be huge going forward.
In a rather low scoring affair last night, there was no sight of any over-powering offense for either team as Depaul caused a lot of turnovers on the Friars. A lot of physical play and strong defense was a big factor in the game tonight. The Blue Demons finished with 13 turnovers as a team, but caused 15 turnovers on Providence and contained Nate Watson all game. These defensive upsides were not enough to overcome their struggles on the offensive end, only scoring 19 points in the second half. Noah Horchler and Nate Watson had 4 blocks each on top of Horchler’s 11 rebounds. Although Watson did end up in foul trouble, Coach Battle kept a small lineup out on the floor for the Friars that worked to perfection as they held a strong enough lead to close out the game.
Providence improved to 11-10 on the season and finished 2-0 against Depaul, while the Blue Demons continue to struggle as they fall to 3-9 overall and 1-9 in conference play. Depaul will now move on to play their next Big East battle on February 17th against Sandro Mamukelashvili and the Seton Hall Pirates.
The Friars' chances for a spot in the NCAA tournament are not looking as good as they were last year around this time, but they will continue their momentum into a tough stretch of games to close out the season. They will have UCONN, Xavier, St. Johns, and the powerhouse of Villanova as their last 4 games, in which they will hopefully now have Jared Bynum on the floor, and Ed Cooley back on the sideline.
Providence will look to extend their win streak and travel to UCONN next to face off with the 9-5 Huskies on Tuesday at 6:30 on FS1.