Kevin McSports

Friars fail to post, DePaul delivers knockout punch

Friars fail to post, DePaul delivers knockout punch

Noah Horchler and Nate Watson battle for a rebound vs. DePaul (Photo: Big East Conference)


NEW YORK – A season of disappointment for the Providence Friars ended with the biggest letdown of them all Wednesday at the Big East Tournament.

The Friars were punched in the mouth early, steadied themselves for only a bit and then couldn’t keep lowly DePaul from pulling away late for a 70-62 victory. The Demons had won just one of their previous nine games but improved to 5-13 on the season. They’ll face Connecticut in Thursday night’s quarterfinal round.

Providence ends its campaign at 13-13. There will be no NCAA Tournament as once hoped, and not even an NIT bid.

Nate Watson led the Friars with 18 points and Noah Horchler added 17 with four 3-pointers. David Duke was held to a quiet 7 points on 2-of-9 shooting.

The Friars shot just 35 percent from the floor, missed 14 free throws (15-of-29) and had 16 turnovers.

“Give them a lot of credit. Their physicality beat us up on the glass. We didn’t match their intensity,” said coach Ed Cooley. “It’s sad. I’m hurt for our players, I’m hurt for our program to have your last game like that.”

Javon Freeman-Liberty and Charlie Moore led DePaul with 21 points apiece. Freeman-Liberty returned for the game after recovering from a concussion.

“It was a big boost to have Javon back. We play well off each other,” Moore said. “We just wanted to be aggressive today. Push the pace, get in the paint. We followed that game plan tonight and it worked for us.”

The game began in nightmarish fashion for the Friars as the team’s offense was tight, nervous and two steps slow. DePaul’s defense had a lot to do with that but before you could say `New York’ the Demons were up 17-8. Providence had more turnovers (5) than field goals (2-of-12) and could not have looked much worse.

That changed thanks to a bit of Ed Cooley desperation as a deep dip into the bench yielded a lineup of Duke, Andrew Fonts, Brycen Goodine, Ed Croswell and Greg Gantt. The move, somehow, worked wonders.

In a flash the Friars had seven consecutive points with Goodine getting to the line twice for three free throws, hitting a floater in the lane and then draining a 3-pointer that gave PC a 23-22 lead. By that point Fonts and Croswell had retreated to the bench. Noah Horchler (11 points in the half) then stepped up with consecutive 3-pointers and the 50 or so Friar fans rattling around the Big House were hooting and hollering.

The Friars hurt themselves by making just 9-of-16 free throws in the half and letting down on defense in the final two minutes as Charlie Moore (11 in half) and Javon Freeman-Liberty (10) were tough to handle.

The second half also began badly for Providence. This time a 0–of-3 start opened the door for DePaul to regain the lead and go up 43-37. The half owned a choppy feel as the Friars once again totaled more turnovers than field goals for too long of an opening stretch. Only because DePaul is, well, DePaul, did the deficit not sit at larger than 49-43 with 11:55 to play.

The Friars made a push and tied the game at 51 and 53 but DePaul scored 9 of the next 11 points to claim a 62-55 lead with 3:22 left. Moore continually beat the Friars off the bounce, slicing down the baseline past Horchler and then beating Duke to the hoop after his teammates chased down two offensive rebounds.

That was it for the Friars as the continued defensive breakdowns proved too much to handle. Leitao said stopping Duke was a major focus for the Blue Demons.

“He’s done well twice against us so the guy that was guarding him had to crowd him and we wanted to force him into a second defender,” he said. “Our guys only gave him nine shots and I thought every jump shot was defended.”

Cooley said that DePaul’s attention to Duke is “that’s where your teammates have to make an extra shot here, an extra pass there. He was trying really hard. We had some open shots we weren’t able to convert.”

The Friars have faded badly in the last few second halves, a problem that Cooley will address in the off-season, he said.

”I’d say our second half performances have been inconsistent all season. That second half today was a microcosm of this entire year. Our defensive alertness, our attention to detail, our communication. When I talk about soul searching, for me it starts on the defensive end. Team toughness, mental toughness, coaching toughness. The finger points right at the mirror and it starts with Edward Cooley.”

Cooley added that he’s as let down as anyone in Friar Town and insisted that in the post-game meeting with his players, he told everyone ”that changes are coming.”

“It just wasn’t the year that i thought we would have,” Cooley said. “I know there are a lot of disappointed people (but) there’s no one more disappointed than myself. We expect a lot. Our expectations for our program will remain high. Our standards are high. It just wasn’t one of these years where we had enough consistency, top to bottom, for us to be a worthy team night in and night out.”

Nate Watson couldn’t urge the Friars to victory in New York (Photo: Big East Conference)


Noah Horchler – 17 points

Nate Watson – 18 points, 9 rebounds

Charlie Moore – 21 points

Javon Freeman-Liberty – 21 points

Ed Cooley was reflective in the post-game, saying his season-long urging of his players just didn’t lead to consistent success. Why? A litany of reasons, many that the coach realizes needs to be addressed with off-season changes that almost certainly will include some roster shuffling.



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