Greg Gantt and the Friars ran past TCU Wednesday
By KEVIN McNAMARA
A whole lot of David Duke sparked the Providence Friars Wednesday, but a complete team effort delivered an important road victory.
The Friars rode a superb 28-point, 7-assist explosion by Duke and beat TCU, 79-70 in the Big East/Big 12 Battle. Nate Watson added 18 points and 8 rebounds but the Friars received contributions up and down their lineup.
“Coach asks me to stay aggressive and don’t ever take your foot off the gas,” Duke said. “Put your imprint on the game early on. That gets you going and gets your teammates going.”
With only a few exceptions, the first half couldn’t have unfolded much better for the Friars. An early spark from 3-pointers by Duke and A.J. Reeves got the train rolling and as Duke caught fire the lead only grew. PC led by as many as 13 points in the opening half that ended in a 43-32 lead.
Duke did it with the pass, his defense and all sorts of scoring ability.
He also kissed the sky for a few jams.
The Friars came into the game struggling to shoot from downtown but that team didn’t show up here. PC hit 7-of-16 threes with Duke hitting five. The Friars also dominated the boards (33-20) and had 26 points off 19 TCU turnovers.
“It was huge,” Duke said. “Getting a road win against a very good team in a great conference. It was a great win for us and for our confidence going into Big East play.”
Duke came into the game averaging 18 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He scored 28 points in a win over Fairleigh Dickinson in PC’s last game but his repertoire in this outing was clearly his best of the young season.
“We didn’t play well in Asheville (at the Maui Invitational) but I didn’t think David played bad,” Cooley said. “The rest of the had to come on, we need you. He’s playing like an All-American candidate. We got on his back. In all honesty it was fun to watch him out there. To see his growth and development? Jeez Louise.”
David Duke – 28 points, 7 assists, 2 steals. Several of the Dimes were quite slick.
Nate Watson – 18 points, 8 rebounds
RJ Nembhard – 25 points.
Mike Miles – Impressive TCU frosh finished with 20 points.
*The Friars didn’t get to Fort Worth until 6 p.m. Tuesday so didn’t get a chance to shoot at the Horned Frogs arena. Cooley chose not to take an 11 a.m. shoot-around Wednesday morning with the game set for 4 p.m. Central time.
When his team finally hit the floor, it clearly was ready. PC’s energy and execution in the first half dictated the rest of the game.
“It’s one of the very few times we didn’t utilize our time,” Cooley said. “I can tell you wherever our next road game is, I don’t think the Friars will be showing up for that shoot-around. If we can play like that without shooting around, slap me if I bring them to the gym.”
*With a lead the Friars frequently grinded out possessions via their Flex offense. Jimmy Nichols and Greg Gantt’s ability to pass and catch paid off nicely.
*The Friars are now 4-2 and done with their non-conference schedule. Getting a road win against a Big 12 team will go far this season but recording a victory heading into the Big East schedule was vitally important. “It was an incredible amount of urgency,” Cooley said.
PC wasn’t exactly thrilled with having to travel to Texas during the pandemic just before conference play tips off. Cooley says he’ll cross his fingers and hope his team remains virus free.
“I’ll tell you what New England is a lot more mask-friendly than Texas. A lot more,” Cooley said. “The weather was beautiful but the mask-wearing was pretty suspect. Hopefully none of us caught anything.”
NEXT UP: Big East opener vs. Xavier, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.