Noah Locke looking to score vs. Red Storm in PC’s win in Providence
By KEVIN McNAMARA
Life on the Big East road comes complete with plenty of bumps. Just ask the Providence College Friars.
The No. 20 Friars fell for the fourth time in five chances away from the Amica Mutual Pavilion Saturday in a 73-68 defeat at Madison Square Garden. Now let’s get one thing straight. The Garden wasn’t some college hoops bee’s nest. In fact, it was highly populated by half-buzzed Friar fans. But when you shoot 33 percent and miss a load of layups and shots inside five feet like the Friars did in this one, you have little chance to grab a win. That’s simply too much to overcome.
“I don’t know if it was as much what St. John’s was doing as we just missed a lot of shots,” said PC coach Ed Cooley. “We missed a ton of shots we normally make, shots we have to make to win.”
The Friars continue to open slowly and dig themselves holes out of the gate. They’ve survived such starts – and they’ve come against everyone from Georgetown to Xavier to Butler – but that’s testing fate a bit too much. PC trailed by 10 points after seven minutes and by 16 (25-9) after 10 minutes. The fact that the visitors clawed back and tied the game early in the second half should not shield this consistent, problematic factor.
“We were lacking energy and enthusiasm early,” Cooley said. “I thought we were listless so you’re trying to find a different combination to just bring you some energy and enthusiasm. You don’t have to be the most talented player on the floor to impact winning. I thought rotating different energy in allowed us to get back into the game.”
St. John’s made an impressive start, the Friars could not make a shot and, to make matters worse, the visitors were playing soft on defense as the Storm connected on 9 of its first 13 shots.
Cooley dipped into his bench and received a jolt from the likes of Corey Floyd and Clifton Moore and the personnel changes helped spark a push and change the game. A few 3-pointers from Jared Bynum and Devin Carter were critical as Providence nearly wiped out their entire deficit with a 19-7 rush to close the half and trail by just 39-37.
Providence started the second half strong and tied the game, 39-39, on a Noah Locke jumper in the lane. But those makes were few and far between. Locke finished 2-of-9 from the floor and Bynum was an even shakier 2-of-12. Bynum did dish for 10 assists but he missed all five of his shots inside the 3-point line and was 2-of-7 from downtown.
PC’s offensive numbers were grizzly. The shot a 33 percent shooting included 30 percent (7-of-23) from the 3-point line. The Friars made 34 percent of their 2-point shots, the second worst outing of the season. The team’s effective field goal percentage of 38.2 was the lowest of the season.
Bryce Hopkins began the game missing everything, especially around the rim. His 1-of-8 start evened out in a bountiful second half when he tallied 19 of his game-high 29 points. Carter filled the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks but after the two sophomores no other Friar stood up to be counted on offense.
Providence trailed 56-52 with oodles of time left and for some stretches it looked like St. John’s (15-11, 5-10) might revert to form and play give-away. However a balanced Red Storm attack (five double figure scorers) led by David Jones (16), freshman A.J. Storr (15) and big man Joel Soriano (10 points, 13 boards) came together to extend the lead to 62-52. It was still a comfortable 66-57 with 2:42 left but the Friars could not melt the lead inside six points down the stretch.
SEE YOU SOON: Who knows who the Friars will play when they return to the Garden in a month for the Big East Tournament but it sounds as if Cooley cannot wait. PC has lost its last three of its last four games played at the World’s Most Famous Arena, a string Friar fans pray doesn’t last much longer.
“I want us to win on Tuesday, that’s what we can control next,” Cooley said of the upcoming Creighton game. “There’s no greater tournament in the world that has the energy, enthusiasm, fan support, history. There’s a lot of other conferences that probably have o.k. tournaments. The Big East Tournament is arguably the greatest – ever. Ever…There’s not another conference in America that can compare to what the Big East Tournament does because it’s held right here in this building.”
NEXT UP: A big week awaits with the Friars returning to Providence for a Valentine Night showdown with Creighton (11-3) and then welcoming in Villanova next Saturday. The Jays squeaked by Connecticut Saturday and have rolled to eight consecutive wins.