Friars face key test at Xavier
Noah Horchler and PC’s other transfers loom large this season (Photo: PC Athletics)
By KEVIN McNAMARA
The pain of a last second, last gasp loss to Creighton has subsided. Now it’s time for the Providence College Friars to turn the page.
PC’s 67-65 loss to the Bluejays is one that coach Ed Cooley knows will teach his team many lessons as the Big East schedule continues. The Friars played their brand of basketball for only the first and last seven minutes of the game. That’s not nearly enough to take down a Top 15 ranked team, one that is riding high (9-2, 5-1) in the Big East.
“We broke the (last sequence) down. It was tough,” Cooley said. “I thought we showed some grit and some fortitude coming back and tying it up yet we weren’t able to stop them at the end of the game. We’ll get better from it. There is also some value in losing a game and teaching your kids.”
Instead of a doom and gloom carryover, the Friars are pointing ahead to perhaps the toughest stretch of their schedule. It’s a four-of-five on the road stretch that begins Sunday at Xavier. Cooley says the preparations have been good, with one underlying factor more important that any.
“We’re excited, we’re still testing negative,” Cooley said. “I think we’re the lone remaining soldiers that hasn’t had a pause. That really makes me nervous because we could test positive at any point and get shut down.”
Xavier is 9-2 overall, 2-2 in the Big East and perhaps the league’s biggest surprise. The addition of impact transfers Nate Johnson, Ben Stanley and Adam Kunkel has boosted the Musketeers’ hopes this season. Holdovers Paul Scruggs and Zach Freemantle continue to lead the way for a team that’s really only posted one bad game all season: a 85-68 loss to Seton Hall.
“Our styles of play are very, very similar, our recruiting philosophies are very, very similar,” Cooley said of Xavier. “I definitely expect a heavyweight bout in the Big East. I just hope we can get a knockout in the 15th round with a second to play because these games are coming down to one or two possessions.”
The Friars are hoping that point guard Jared Bynum (groin strain) can play at Xavier and again at Marquette Tuesday. If he cannot, look for David Duke to carry an even heavier load and Cooley to hope for contributions from freshman Alyn Breed and transfer Brycen Goodine.
“If we were playing today he definitely wouldn’t be able to play. That’s going to be a day-to-day deal,” Cooley said last Wednesday
Bynum, Goodine, Noah Horchler and Ed Croswell are all transfers who’ve enjoyed varying degrees of success in their first season as Friars. PC’s upside for the rest of the season likely lies with their continued development. Acknowledging that the `Big East is a different brand of basketball,’ Cooley agreed that much of the team’s upside growth may lie in the progression of the four transfers.
“I expect more from them. I definitely expect more from them,” Cooley said. “We’re older. Noah is a fifth-year senior. Ed Croswell is a junior. I expected out guys to be a little further along, although we didn’t have game time. We did have life time. These kids have played a lot of basketball.”
“I see some development in them and hopefully we continued because we’re going to need them. I like where we’re at but we have a long way to go before we’re the team we want to be.”