Ed Croswell ducks under defense in first half of PC’s double OT win over DePaul (Photo: PC Athletics)
By KEVIN McNAMARA
It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t pretty but the Providence Friars are sure happy to stick a post-Christmas Big East win in their stockings.
The Friars ran into a gritty, talented DePaul team playing only its second game of the season and nothing came without a fight. A late A.J. Reeves 3-pointer pushed the game into overtime and then some tough defense closed out the Blue Demons in a second extra stanza for a 95-90 victory.
David Duke led the Friars once again with 24 points and played an amzing 49 of the 50 minutes. Reeves shook off a nightmarish effort in a loss at Butler to pour in 22. Nate Watson had a monster second half and o.t.’s to finish with 18 points and 14 boards.
The win is PC’s second in the Big East (2-1), and both have come in overtime. The Friars (6-3) will host Butler Wednesday night.
The Friar offense came in only fits and starts in the first half that ended with the home team holding a slight 34-29 lead. PC shot 37 percent but made only 1-of-9 attempts from the 3-point line. David Duke totaled nine of his points but it took him 3-of-10 shooting. Nate Watson was limited to just three shots and four points in the half.
PC’s defense was steady. The Friars led 8-4 early on before DePaul took a jolt of energy from impressive sophomore Romeo Weems (10 in the half) to grab a 15-14 lead. The Friars responded nicely, ripping off a 10-2 run with Jared Bynum scoring twice, A.J. Reeves running out in transition and Duke knocking down a jumper.
The first half lead peaked at 31-23 with 1:54 left when Watson netted his only bucket of the half.
PC’s 34-29 halftime lead pushed up to 47-39 in the second half with a Jared Bynum-to-Duke alley-oop opening some eyes,
The Blue Demons caught a spark from veteran point guard Charlie Moore and before long PC’s lead had vanished. The Demons put together a 16-5 run with much of the damage done inside as the visitors raced to a 55-52 lead and forced an Ed Cooley timeout.
DePaul rallied late and took a lead on a Weems 3-pointer with 51 seconds left. Two Moore free throws with 16 seconds remaining made it 74-71. The Friars refused to take a timeout, found Reeves on the wing on a set play and the junior bomber came up big with the tying shot with six seconds remaining.
Reeves opened the extra session with another 3-pointer and the Friars held the lead through the O.T. DePaul tied the score at 81-81 but a Reeves steal led to a run-out layup by Duke with 1:03 left. DePaul secured an offensive rebound and capitalized as Pauly Paulicamp scored inside to tie the score with 40 seconds left.
Reeves missed a jumper for the lead with 14 seconds left but when DePaul couldn’t get a shot off, the teams moved on to a second overtime.
The second stanza opened with a Watson score but DePaul took a 88-87 lead on a 3-pointer by Kobe Elvis (what a name!!). The Friar defense stiffened from there as Duke and Reeves made four free throws and then Bynum fired a slick pass to Watson for a layup and 93-88 lead with 51 seconds left.
Two more Duke free throws made it 95-90 with 29 seconds left and DePaul would make just 3-of9 shots in the second overtime.
David Duke- 24 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists.
AJ Reeves – Best performance of the season, 22 points, four threes.
Nate Watson – Slow start, fast finish. 18 points, 14 rebounds.
Romeo Weems- DePaul sophomore flashed full repertoire, 21 points, 5-of-6 threes.
Charlie Moore – Veteran guard delivered 17 points.
*DePaul was playing only its second game due to multiple issues with positive COVID cases. The Blue Demons actually traveled to a game at Iowa State but could not play after testing positive. Virtually every player and staff member has had to isolate over the last month.
*On the COVID front, Cooley had this to say after the game. He’s referred to the mental struggles his players have fought through the pandemic but admitted that not sending his team home for Christmas where they can `hug their loved ones’ is taking a toll on the Friars.
“What a lot of you aren’t seeing is the pressure our players are under during this pandemic,” Cooley said. “They’re in the gym, the bus, the plane, the car, the room. Their emotional well-being, that’s something you guys have to be extremely sensitive to that around the country. Yes, we want to play basketball games but at the same time we’re dealing with young, fragile 18-to-22 year olds that are really struggling. Some of these kids haven’t touched their loved ones in months.”
*DePaul has a total of six newcomers are on the 2020-21 roster with
two freshman, two undergraduate transfers and two graduate transfers.
Kobe Elvis signed with DePaul in November and is ranked among Canada’s top players. Chicago native Max Williams is joining the program after playing his final prep season at IMG Academy (Fla.). Pauly Paulicap (Manhattan) and Ray Salnave (Monmouth) are graduate students and immediately eligible for the 2020-21 season. Transfers Javon Freeman-Liberty (Valpo) and Courvoisier McCauley (Div. 2 Lincoln) both received waivers from the NCAA to play immediately.
*If anyone missed PC athletic director Bob Driscoll earlier this week, he says the Big East is currently focused on holding the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. Even without fans.
NEXT UP: Friars host Butler Wednesday, 5 p.m.