Friar Weekly: PC/URI Smack Talk Almost as Good as the Game

Welcome to Friar Weekly! This week I take a look at the two vastly different wins PC earned over Belmont and Boston College, how PC’s ugly win over Belmont indicates a culture change, my plea for Dajour Dickens to be ready, and discuss how much I love Twitter fights between PC and URI fans!

First Things First: What Happened This Week

The Friars went 2-0 in two games that were on opposite ends of the performance spectrum. On the one hand you have a Friar victory over Belmont, which came at the hands of a last-second heave by Kyron Cartwright. On the other hand you have a 20 point beatdown of former Big East rival Boston College. I could go into the differences in offense, defense, effort, awareness, or a legion of other talking points for how different both these games went (and I’m sure I will during this column), but I think Ed Cooley’s post game comments of each sums it up nicely.

Cooley, after Belmont: We were very fortunate to win. Honestly my team didn’t deserve to win, and we were lucky to win at home. We made every mistake possible…I’m happy we won, but definitely not happy with our performance.

Cooley, after Boston College: I thought it was one of our more complete games. I liked our guys’ attitudes. I liked their attitude and our preparation…I thought we played one of our better games offensively and defensively.

Play Horrible, Win Anyway

There’s something to be said about how remarkably terrible the Friars played against Belmont while still managing to pull out a win. I took the time to look over some of the stats from that game and here’s what I noticed:

  • The shooting was about almost as bad as it looked. The Friars shot 39.7% from the field, and an abysmal 28.6% from three (keep in mind that, prior to that, the Friars led the NCAA in 3 point shooting).
  • The Friars had 7 assists for the game. Total. Combined. I guess that’s what happens when you miss that many shots, but even beyond the shooting it’s not like Providence was doing a ton to pass well.
  • Almost no support from the bench, sans Jalen Lindsey who went off for 12 points.

Keep in mind the box score doesn’t show how bad the defense really was. Now, here’s the thing: the Friars played sloppy, didn’t do a great job sharing the ball, and didn’t have a lot of support from their bench. I could write a column harping on that, but I’ll leave that to the message boards. Instead, I think we should discuss how Providence won that game.

There are things here: how Providence won, and why they won. Despite a poor effort on defense and practically nothing from the floor, The Friars put together a win against what is (to be fair) a well-rounded and tough opponent. Providence was able to do this by making the most of the free throws they had (going a perfect 10-10), out-rebounding Belmont (35-30, not much but enough), and forcing Belmont to turn the ball over 12 times. Belmont, at points, also played as bad as the Friars, so that really helped too.

Providence won because of a coach named Ed Cooley. In years past the Friars would have lost this game. Heck, in years past Providence has lost this game. Many times over. But as Cooley has built this program up with talent, he’s also created a culture of discipline.

Look at that last shot by Cartwright.

 

Cartwright said after the game that he was trying to get to the basket but didn’t have enough time when he split the defenders, so he had to take a long range shot. But if you notice, Cartwright plants his feet and sets up his shot – that’s not an accident. That was, according to Cartwright, what Cooley has told him over and over to do, and what he was hearing in the back of his head as he took at that shot.

That is how you foster a winning culture. That’s how you win these close games. You give your players the tools, skills, and most important of all the knowledge on how to win in those situations. It paid off. The Friars escaped defeat from the hands of their own terrible performance, because Cooley provided them the skills to do so.

Let me reiterate: in years past we lose this game. We won not because of a well-executed game plan, but because when the shot that mattered most came up, Cooley had made sure his players were prepared long in advance.

PC’s Defense

Going into this season I thought the Friars were going to have a high octane offense. PC had a ton of talent in scoring, and even expanded it a bit when they added players like Makai Ashton-Langford to the depth chart. And yet, every game I watch I am completely marveled by PC’s defense.

Let me be clear: this defense is not perfect. Games against Minnesota and Belmont are evidence of that. The lack of help and the way that the Bruins routinely took the Friars to task on ball screens was pretty horrendous, I can’t deny that. There is work to be done, nobody’s denying that. But when this defense is on the Friars become incredibly fun to watch.

What I find most interesting is that, for the first time, you can point to any number of individuals with strong defensive efforts, but the team plays well together rather than relying on a few lockdown defenders. Drew Edwards, Cartwright, and Lindsey are some of the names that come to mind on individuals. As a team, however, the Friars are playing defense that nobody would have thought they’d see when Keno Davis was head coach. Cooley has always stressed the importance of defense, and it has paid off for his players (see: Kris Dunn’s pro career), but this truly is a new level.

What the Friars will need to be mindful of going forward is keeping that defensive effort up. They can’t slow it down after halftime, which they’ve done twice now (three times if you want to count Washington as well). I can sleep at night knowing that this is November and Cooley teams improve as the year goes on, but it will be something fans should watch for.

I want Dajour Dickens to be ready!

I really want to see Dajour Dickens to play. Nate Watson has been great and shows a lot of potential. Kalif Young has his skills but needs some work still. Emmitt Holt is gone. I want to get us some height in the middle. I want Dickens in.

But that won’t happen until he bulks up.

A lot of fans are looking for the 7 foor center to add opportunities on both ends that the Friars desperately need. On defense he’s someone who can protect the rim and swat away at those slashers. On offense he’s a little bit more height for PC to pass to in the post. Watch his slam down alley oop against St. Louis in the 2K Classic and tell me who wouldn’t want that night in and night out?

But right now Dickens is small for a center. Providence can get away with this against smaller teams in the nonconference, but come the Big east Dickens will struggle to outmuscle bigger defenders.

But there is good news here. Dickens shows a lot of potential, and you also can’t teach height. Once Dickens puts on some mass he’ll be relentless in the paint on both ends of the court. It’s something to look forward to. The frustration comes from the lack of options at the center right now, especially with Holt out. I am hopeful we’ll see more of Dickens in this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his role is quiet this year, only to have an explosive sophomore year. I don’t want to wait, but the waiting will be worth it once Dickens is ready.

PC and URI Fans Make Saturday’s Game Fun

It would be silly to not use this opportunity to acknowledge the game on Saturday. And boy, this is the biggest matchup between PC and URI I’ve seen in my time as a fan.

For the first time since, I don’t know, the late 90s maybe, Providence and URI are both respectable in the world of college basketball. Both have made noise on the national scene. Both are recruiting at high levels. Both are playing competitively and winning games or keeping them close. Both are receiving votes in the latest AP poll.

And my goodness are fans on both sides relentless on this.

Go on Twitter right now. Look at the tweets between fans of these programs. I’ve seen some smack talk in the past around this time of the year, but there’s been a lot more and it’s been going on a lot longer than just the past couple days. Both teams are good, and that means fans both want the bragging rights. These fans are hungry like they haven’t eaten in a year and are told in a few days they’re being taken to an all-you-can-eat buffet.

I’m not going to lie: I love it. I love seeing passion from both sides as they really go after one another, with justifiable arguments. Normally it’s a “your school is bad!” “no, YOURS is!” and that’s boring. Now that both schools are good, there’s actual basketball talk in the social media arguments. That’s fun when you can argue based in reality. And yeah, there’s unrelated shade peppered in on both sides, but now that it’s a flavor enhancer rather than the dish, watching these two fan bases eat each others words is hilarious and entertaining.

Saturday, however, will be the big test. Who wins the bragging rights? We’ll find out.