PC’s Nate Watson was a force once again in win at Seton Hall (Photo: Porter Binks).
By KEVIN FARRAHAR
In a game that saw a bit of everything, Providence grabbed an overtime win at Seton Hall on a three pointer by AJ Reeves that snapped a 77-77 tie with three seconds remaining in the extra session. The Pirates got a great look at a game-tying three of their own on the ensuing possession, but Takal Molson’s jumper caught back iron, and the Friars improved to 5-2 after winning their Big East opener.
Reeves has made a habit of knocking down deep shots in the waning seconds of road games. As a freshman, he sent PC and Boston College to overtime with a last second three, and did the same last January at Marquette. When David Duke (18 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists) found him in the corner against the Hall, Reeves rose up confidently and drained the winning shot.
“It was more of a telepathic thing between me and Duke,” Reeves said about the pass from his former AAU teammate. “If he’s driving baseline we work on sliding to the corner and trying to get open so he can have an outlet. He saw me this time and I knocked it down.”
This can’t be the junior season that Reeves had envisioned. He has struggled to find any consistency with his jump shot through seven games (under 20% from 3 coming in), and was in this game only because Jimmy Nichols fouled out trying to defend talented Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili. Still, when Providence needed him most, Reeves once again came through with a big shot late.
“Our team played really well as a whole, and I just did my part to help us get the W,” Reeves said.
Mamukelashvili has been terrific this season for Kevin Willard, but on this afternoon it was Ed Cooley’s big man taking the lead role.
Nate Watson faced a difficult matchup against the 7’2, 260 pound Ike Obiagu. It didn’t matter. Watson scored 23 points on 10-16 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds. Watson was particularly dominant in the second half, when he scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds (six on the offensive end) when the game tightened and offense became tougher to come by.
“Nate is a totally different player this year. His touch, his free throw shooting — Nate is in incredible shape,” Cooley continued. “He’s a weapon in there. He’s a man-child in there. We’re going to ride him all the way until we wear his legs out.”
Points could not have been easier to come by for either team in the first half. The Friars shot a blistering 62% in the opening stanza, and made 5-8 from deep. Eight Friars scored in the half, and Providence got a big lift from Jimmy Nichols’ eight points on 3-3 shooting (with a pair of 3s).
Despite PC’s hot shooting, Seton Hall led 40-38 at halftime, as they made 55% of their shots from the field, and benefitted from nine Friar turnovers (and a 10-2 advantage in fastbreak points).
Seton Hall ripped off a 7-0 run to begin the second half to take a nine point lead, but PC countered with a 14-2 spurt of their own, kicked off by back-to-back three pointers by Duke and Noah Horchler. Duke had a near double double in the second half alone, with 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Pirates started the second half 4-20 from the field and made just 11 of their final 33 shots in the second half and overtime session.
Nichols and sophomore Greg Gantt were big reasons why Mamukelashvili shot 6-17 from the field, as their length continues to cause problems for opponents.
After Jared Rhoden and Myles Cale combined for 25 first half points for the Hall, the duo scored just seven after the break.
Cooley leaned heavily on Duke (40 minutes), Watson (38), and point guard Jared Bynum (43). Bynum had seven assists in the first half, turned the ball over just twice against an aggressive Seton Hall defense, and knocked down his first three pointer of the season to start the scoring in overtime. It would prove to be Providence’s only field goal in overtime until Reeves’ game winner.
Providence had to wait a while for this one. After winning at TCU on Dec. 9, they saw games against DePaul and Xavier cancelled due to their opponents facing positive COVID-19 results. “I thought the time away helped us,” Cooley said after the win. “Many people thought it would hurt us, but I think it helped us work on some of our fundamentals — in particular our offensive rhythm.”
After consecutive road wins over TCU and Seton Hall, Providence is suddenly back on track. A busy stretch awaits, with a trip to Indianapolis to take on Butler (12/23) up next, and three home games scheduled to follow shortly thereafter (12/27 vs. DePaul, 12/30 vs. Butler, 1/2 vs. Creighton).
With that schedule ahead, Providence won’t have much time to celebrate the victory, but they have to feel good about where they stand after picking up a pair of important wins the last two times out.
- Nate Watson – Big man continued his strong season with a dominating 23 points and 11 rebounds, seven offensive. Eclipsed 1,000 points for his career.
- David Duke – Star guard only shot 4-of-13 but finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
- A.J. Reeves – Made the game’s biggest shot, a corner 3-pointer in overtime to snap a tie score. Finished with seven points on 2-of-5 shooting.
- Jimmy Nichols – He picked up a costly foul at the end of regulation but the junior forward came up big with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting with two 3-pointers and also played tough defense.
- Sando Mamukelashvili – 20 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists.
*Nate Watson got the better of Sandro Mamukelashvili. This is a good sign. The Seton Hall big man is playing as well as any big man in the country but the PC defense – namely Jimmy Nichols – bothered Mamu. He shot 6-of-17 from the floor and did not make any of his four 3-point tries. Watson has yet to be limited by any opposing big man this season.
*Jared Bynum was more aggressive on offense and hit his first 3-pointer of the season. His nine points and eight assists were both vital and impressive.
*Cooley said “I really learned about our mental toughness and emotional composure,” as the team bounced back from letting a win slip away in regulation before closing the deal in the final seconds of overtime. Nichols’ foul on Mamukelashvili at the end of regulation was wiped clean by Reeves 3-ball in the clutch.
*Sometimes tight games just come down to make or miss. That was the case in this one as Seton Hall didn’t execute in overtime while the Friars did to break a tie score.
UP NEXT: PC at Butler, Wednesday, Dec. 23.