The Friars finish week one 2-0 following a 24-point victory over the Northeastern Huskies.
Well, that was much, much better. At least offensively speaking.
After a heart attack of an opening night, it was certainly a sigh of relief to watch the Friars cruise to victory late Saturday against the Northeastern Huskies. It was certainly much better for my heart rate as well, for that matter.
There are definitely some flaws that have been consistent across the Friars’ first two contests– but they’re absolutely trending in the right direction after week one.
A blood pumping finish in game one, followed by a smooth sailing cruise to victory in game two. What a week.
Let’s get into it.
Saturday night’s game between the Providence Friars and the Northeastern Huskies was a tale of two halves. The first half looked like a copy and paste of the Friars’ Tuesday night performance against Rider. The second half did not look much better… for the first three minutes, that is.
In the first half, the Friars led by as many as 10 points, in what looked to be a much-improved defensive performance following Tuesday night’s close win. A Bryce Hopkins’ layup with 3:46 left on the clock put the Friars up nine, 33-24, and had fans comfortably watching, hoping for a double-digit cushion heading into halftime. What ensued, had me nearly ripping my hair out of my skull.
The Huskies ended the first half on a 12-5 run, capped by a wide open, buzzer-beating three-pointer from Coleman Stucke, which trimmed the Friars’ lead to just 2 points going into the break, 38-36. The Huskies opened the second half with that same momentum, utilizing a Jahmyl Telfort jumper and another Coleman Stucke three-pointer, to take the lead, 41-40.
With a little over seventeen minutes left to play, Ed Cooley’s young squad kicked it into gear. An 11-0 run, capped by a Noah Locke corner three, watched the Friars reclaim their 10-point lead over the huskies. From this point forward, it was all Providence.
The Friars would go on to outscore the Huskies, 38-24, following that Noah Locke three, and did not look back once.
Jared Bynum was the hero in this one, logging a season-high 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting. The preseason first team all-conference selection was also flirting with a double-double, dishing out 9 assists in the win. This was a much-needed bounce-back performance for Bynum, who struggled in the opener against a pesky Rider backcourt. In the post-game press conference, Ed Cooley referred to Bynum as “Superman,” saying that the senior “put his cape on” in the second half.
Bynum was joined in double figures by Clifton Moore (15 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 6-8 FG), Noah Locke (13 points, 5-11 FG) and Bryce Hopkins (10 points, 11 rebounds, 4-9 FG), who recorded his first career double-double. Devin Carter also chipped in with 9 points, including a highlight-reel reverse dunk ally-oop, perfectly placed from freshman point guard, Jayden Pierre.
The Friars finished the night shooting 58.6% from the field (34-58), 53.8% from three (7-13) and a much improved 73.7% from the charity stripe (14-19). Perhaps, my favorite stat from Saturday’s game is that the Friars had 18 assists on 34 made field goals – meaning more than half of the Friars’ made shots from the field came from an assist. Share the sugar, baby!
As for the visitors, the Huskies were led by Coleman Stucke, who logged 17 points, and went 6-for-12 from the floor, draining five threes in the process. Jahmyl Telfort and Chase Cormier added 11 points apiece in the loss.
As a team, the Huskies shot 39% from the field (23-59), 37.5% from deep (9-24) and 71.4% from the line (10-14).
As I mentioned earlier, Saturday night saw an improved effort from the Friars offensively. The key to this was Jared Bynum returning to peak form. 18 assists on 34 made field goals does not happen without Bynum’s 9 assists. Not to mention, he got almost everything he put up in the second half. 16 of Bynum’s 21 points came in the second half, including his first two made threes of the season.
This is the expectation for Bynum, however, as alluded to by Cooley in the post-game press conference. “That’s what first team all-conference players do, they lead the right way,” said Cooley, when asked about Bynum’s second half performance. For this Providence team to be successful, Bynum needs to be on.
Newcomer Clifton Moore also played a huge role in the win. Midway through the first half, Ed Croswell was sent to the locker room with a nasty finger injury (if you’re like me, you shuddered at the sight of his mis-bent finger during the replay), and Moore was asked to replace Croswell. The result was a dominant paint performance, highlighted by a crowd pleasing one-hand jam, following a pump fake and pretty dime from Bynum.
Aside from the offensive highlights, there are still some defensive hiccups that need remedying - switching on ball screens, closing out, and getting blown by, to name a few. The most glaring, however, is the perimeter defense. The Friars gave up 9 three pointers to the Huskies - the same amount given up to Rider on Tuesday night. On the season, the Friars have given up 18 three pointers on 38 attempts. That is not good.
Thankfully, teams like Rider and Northeastern won’t necessarily make you pay for giving up a combined 54 points on 18 three pointers made… but the same can’t be said about Big East opponents. This is something that needs to be cleaned up going forward, especially given the uptick in opponent talent that hits the schedule this upcoming weekend.
Week One Reflection
Following week one, I must say, I am very impressed with Bryce Hopkins and Clifton Moore.
For those who’ve read my pre-season article, or are avid listeners to my podcast, The Flex, you know very well that I was shaky about Bryce Hopkins coming into the season. Not much of a roll-player at Kentucky, I was worried that more minutes and more responsibility would take a toll on the Sophomore. But, so far, he has impressed. 28 points and 17 rebounds on sixty-nine minutes played in week one is not too shabby. Cooley clearly trusts him, as indicated by his minutes played in each of the team’s first outings. He’ll continue to improve as the season progresses, and is going to be key to the Friars’ success during Big East play this winter.
Clifton Moore, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise. Coming into the season, I wasn’t sure what to think of the La Salle transfer. Knowing Ed Croswell to be the runner-up to Nate Watson last season, and knowing that Rafael Castro was patiently waiting the expiration of his red shirt, I was unsure of how Moore would fit into the fold. Now, after two games, I can very clearly see that Moore is going to play a large roll in this team’s success. He’s versatile, athletic, and most importantly, plays good defense in the post. Moore’s size and versatility compliment Croswell’s finesse and ability to move in tight spaces under the rim, quite nicely.
All in all, I think there are a lot of positive takeaways following week one. I think that there are definitely some things that need to be improved on too, but that’s what the non-conference slate is for. And to be fair, this is the first time that these guys have all taken the hardwood together, dressed in the Friar colors, so its to be expected that not everything is going to be perfect at first.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention the AMP (Amica Mutual Pavilion) crowds of week one, especially the student section. As a former student, and former president of the student section club, Friar Fanatics, I can't once remember a non-conference game (besides the bi-yearly visit from URI) that required the student-seating risers on both ends of the court to be used. And yet, Saturday night saw the Friar Fanatics, all dressed in white, leaking out of both student sections, and into the nosebleeds. That is a huge testament to this program and the strides it has taken over the past couple of seasons.
Up next, the Friars will host Ed Cooley’s alma mater, the Stonehill Skyhawks. The Skyhawks come into this matchup with a 1-2 record, most recently picking up a road win over Army, 82-77. Forward, Andrew Sims, currently leads the Skyhawks, averaging 19 points per game on 64.7% shooting from the field.
KenPom currently has the Skyhawks ranked at 344th, 283 spots lower than the Friars who are sitting at 61. As I’m writing this on Sunday night, Vegas still has yet to release the odds for this one, but I’d imagine that the Friars are favored to win by double digits.
The game will be this Tuesday, 9/15 at 5:00pm (woof) on FS2. As always, be sure to keep up with House Enterprise, Road to the Garden and The Flex for all your Friars and Big East coverage this season.