A.J. Reeves (22 points) came up big for the Friars in win over DePaul. (Photo by PC Athletics).
By KEVIN McNAMARA
Forget the bricks against Indiana or the ugliness of a loss at Butler. Ed Cooley says it does not matter.
A.J. Reeves is his guy.
The junior from Roxbury has struggled with his jumper this season. Actually really struggled, like shooting 17 percent from the 3-point line.
But with a game DePaul team throwing haymakers at the Providence Friars Sunday night at Alumni Hall, Reeves answered the bell. He sank a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game and force overtime and then came up with a few key defensive plays in the two overtimes of a critical 95-90 win.
Reeves had reached double figures in just two of PC’s first eight games. He was averaging 6.9 points on 28 percent shooting from the floor.
Yet on this night he poured in a season-best 22 points and made 4-of-10 tries from the 3-point line. The Friars will take 40 percent from Reeves, if not demand it. On a team that yet again is devoid of competent outside shooting, Reeves and teammate David Duke look like the only options to make a contested, pressure 3-point shot.
Reeves did sink a game-winning 3-pointer to give the Friars a key road win at Seton Hall last week. Down 74-71 inside of 10 seconds, Reeves found himself open again and this time he swished another 3-pointer to send DePaul into overtime.
“I wouldn’t say surprised but they have to be a little smarter,” Reeves said with a smile, no doubt knowing he’s hit a few of these late-game daggers in his career.
After the DePaul game Reeves was asked about talk that Cooley might shuffle his lineup after watching the shooter miss 9-of-10 shots in a 70-64 loss at Butler. Cooley was the one who told reporters that “we have to get more consistency with the guys who start,” after the Butler game.
But that doesn’t mean he’s moving away from a junior with loads of experience in the biggest games.
The best part of that video? Teammate Nate Watson’s line: “That’s what my boy does, he shoots.”
After nine games – which is a third of a normal season – the Friars are making an awful 25.9 percent of their threes. Duke is near the top of the conference at 40 percent but no one else tasked with hoisting a 22-footer has elicited much confidence.
PC’s current 3-point shooting statistics
This is nothing new for the Friars. Despite all of the NCAA Tournament berths and double digit Big East victories Providence has accumulated, Cooley’s teams are almost always poor 3-point shooters. Over the last six seasons (2015-2020) against Big East competition, Providence has finished last of ninth in 3-point shooting four times.
Last season PC shot 33.6 from the three, which was good for fifth in the Big East. Duke (42%) and Reeves (34%) were among the best. Six players hit at least 10 threes on the season.
Maybe that’s the best we can hope for with this 2020-21 team. Duke continues to shine, Reeves works his way back to the mid-30’s and four other players show they can be at least a threat. One needs to be Bynum, the point guard transfer from Saint Joseph’s. While a top-notch ball handler and passer, Bynum is really struggling shooting the ball. He’s averaging 5.8 points, well shy of his 11.3 as a freshman in the Atlantic 10 in 2019. That season he made 34.3% of his 3-pointers.
The Friars would sign up for anything close to that in a heartbeat.