Friar defense surrounds FDU’s Pier-Olivier Racine. Photo/Stew Milne.
By KEVIN McNAMARA
If this is what a `developmental game’ is supposed to look like, the Providence College Friars checked a few boxes Saturday night.
PC shook off a rocky first half to turn up its defense and continue to ride David Duke (28 points, 8 rebounds) and Nate Watson (20 points, 5 boards) to a win over Fairleigh Dickinson, 79-67.
The Friars didn’t start or end the opening half well. After getting beat for a layup after missing a 3-pointer, Ed Cooley called timeout in a 2-2 game and pulled his entire starting five.
Newcomer Alyn Breed and the subsequent return of an aggressive Duke helped PC to a 17-10 lead but that would be the largest Friar advantage of the half. FDU switched to a zone defense for long stretches and that worked wonders as PC would make just 1-of-9 shots from the 3-point line in the half.
The game was even for the last six minutes and after a timeout with 25 seconds left, the Knights executed perfectly with Pier- Olivier Racine dunking with two seconds left and tying the game at 31-31 at the half.
The Friars started the second half strong on defense as Jared Bynum got on the scoreboard and Greg Gantt threw down a big jam for a 44-37 lead. But the offense never found top gear due to awful deep shooting (1-of-9 in first half).
“We’re trying to run plays instead of playing basketball,” Cooley said. “The biggest adjustment was in approach and attitude. We want to be in attack mode.”
That attack mode first showed through with defensive intensity early in the second half and that led to a little breathing room. The Friars went up 40-33 and by the eight minute mark it was 62-47. Duke was everywhere and Watson kept scoring inside but a lift came from Gantt, Alyn Breed and Jimmy Nichols.
The Friars probably could have blown the game open a bit if the team’s 3-point shooting woes did not continue. PC was a woeful 1-of-15 from downtown. Brycen Goodine was the lucky Friar shooter.
Some of our other guys are struggling,” Cooley said. “I don’t know how many threes we’ve made in five games but, uh, it’s going to be tough to beat high-quality teams if we’re can’t shoot the ball well and we’re not defending the way we’re accustomed to. Every day we need to improve and hopefully we improved today, even by a percentage point.”
Nate Watson – 20 points, 5 rebounds
David Duke – 28 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals.
Elyjah Williams – 13 points, 8 rebounds.
Jahlil Jenkins – 13 points
*Ed Cooley is asking David Duke to do it all for his team and except an outlier effort vs. Indiana he’s been up to it. The junior is attacking the basket, making jumpers and creating for everyone. “He’s a good player but a better person,” Cooley said of his star guard.
*Greg Gantt awoke and played his best game yet as a Friar. He finished with 9 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists of his team’s 9 assists. “Greg has to be that energy guy for us. He has to have a bit more self-confidence and don’t worry about scoring. Just worry about playing and having an impact in the game,” Cooley said.
*Tough to miss the Friars’ errant 3-point shooting. They finished 1-of-15 and are now 18-of -87 (20%) for the season.
*The Friars inserted FDU into its schedule after choosing not to host the University of Rhode Island. The move clearly benefitted a PC team that could use more `developmental games,’ as Cooley called such contests. However with a shortened schedule PC will have 24 of its 26 games against upper-level competition. A trip to TCU this Wednesday rolls into a Big East opener next Saturday vs. Xavier.
*Finally a tip of the cap to FDU and its hard-driving coach, Greg Herenda. His Knights are one of the favorites in the wide-open NEC, along with Bryant. He spent time in the Big East as an assistant at Seton Hall and welcomed a chance to play the Friars again, but this time in Alumni Hall and not the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
*UP NEXT: at TCU Wednesday, 5 p.m. ESPNU.