Kevin McSports

Friars struggle to get by DePaul as stretch run awaits

Friars struggle to get by DePaul as stretch run awaits

Devin Carter (31 points) and Josh Oduro (27) were too much for DePaul. (Photos by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)


PROVIDENCE – The stretch run has arrived for the Providence College Friars.

After last night’s 81-70 win over DePaul, Kim English’s first Friar team can see the finish line of this regular season. The big games of March are right around the corner. Now is as good a time as any to assess exactly where this team lies in the college basketball post-season hunt.

PC is now 17-9 and 8-7 in the Big East with five games to go. Three will come away from the Amica Mutual Pavilion (Xavier, Marquette, Georgetown) while visits from Villanova and national No. 1 ranked Connecticut remain. How many games do the Friars need to win to play themselves off their present position squarely on the Bubble of the NCAA Tournament?

It’s too early to ask English or his players that question. There is too much work left ahead and the team expects to win every game it plays. That’s called sports.

“We will lock into Xavier,” English said, referencing PC’s next opponent. “Both teams will be dialed in like they all are in this league. Every game matters.”

Yet the chic parlor game fans are asking all around the Big East is quite simple: what do we need to do to get into the NCAA Tournament? There is no hard-and-fast win total that can assure anything in the competitive bubble world but anything less than 11 Big East wins looms as an uncomfortable predicament.

So can the Friars get to 11 Big East wins before they head to Madison Square Garden for the conference tournament? Of course, but it won’t be easy. The last of the ‘easy games’ fell off the schedule last night against the Blue Demons. And notching win number 17 was hardly easy.

The Friars played a very choppy first half and led at the break by just 34-30. Devin Carter tied his career highs in both points (31) and rebounds (13) and Josh Oduro added 27 points. For the longest time the pair were combining for the vast majority of PC’s points. That was the case up until the nine minute mark as the Friars clung to a 54-44 lead. At that point English sat both of his stars and when Jayden Pierre knocked in a few 3-pointers the Friars spurted to a 81-58 led with 1:45 to play.

Even so, DePaul kept playing and cut 12 points off that 23 deficit down the stretch to make English a very unhappy coach afterwards.

‘We accomplished a mission of getting a win tonight but that was one of the few positives,” English said. “I’m very disappointed in the way we ended this game, up 23 and win by 11. That’s embarrassing and disappointing. Very disappointed in the way we looked.”

It’s often difficult to get a team to dial in on an opponent like DePaul (3-22, 0-14) that has only seen negativity. Even so, English said he had his team focused on meeting numerical targets just like it prepares for UConn or Marquette.

“We made it about us, living to our standards,” English said. “I look at the stat sheet and see a bunch of areas where we didn’t. Those standards hold true to victories. Disappointed that we had a let-down tonight.”

Now it’s all hard work. English said he kept thinking during this DePaul game that he was fortunate his team wasn’t playing Xavier on this night. The challenge of winning at Xavier Wednesday is a bear and while the Musketeers (13-12) need to win the Big East Tournament to make the NCAA’s, they have plenty of talent and an elite coach in Sean Miller. Up next would be Marquette, a top 10 team on its home floor. Tough task.


PC returns to the AMP for a home date against Villanova that offers a chance to avenge the worst Big East loss of the season, a 68-50 defeat on Feb. 4. That one looms as a toss-up. Next up is a trip to D.C. and a visit with Ed Cooley’s Hoyas. Anyone who saw PC scratch out a win over G’Town back on Jan. 27 knows that Cooley will have his team ready for a rematch. Then comes the season finale, a matchup against (hopefully!) the top-ranked UConn Huskies.

So where are the three wins in the final five games? We shall see.



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