Can you still get a sunburn even with the Maui Invitational relocated to the Lower 48?

If you’re the Providence Friars, not even doubling down on the sunscreen could have stemmed the tide.

For the second time in three days, PC failed to answer the call against a high-end opponent. This time, the Friars were overwhelmed by Alabama, 88-71, in the fifth-place game of a relocated tournament that played out in Asheville, N.C.

Wednesday’s performance at Harrah's Cherokee Center saw the Friars (2-2) leak significant oil on both ends of the court. PC struggled on offense, shooting 41.8 percent and making 5-of-23 from 3-point range. Alabama is a team that lives and dies with making 3-point shots, a trait that burned Providence repeatedly as the Crimson Tide dialed up a dozen shots from beyond the arc.

Providence was also manhandled on the glass (48-28, 18-8 on offensive rebounds) and was outscored 21-9 on second-chance points.

With blowout losses to Indiana and Alabama bookending a narrow one-point escape against Davidson, it’s clear that coach Ed Cooley has plenty of issues to sort through. The remaining nonconference games against Fairleigh Dickinson (this Saturday at Alumni Hall) and TCU (next Wednesday on the road) figure to take on even more urgency with Big East play looming not too far in the distance.

“We were a half-step slow today on all levels … guarding the ball and anticipation. We’ve got a long way to go to become the team we want to become,” Cooley said. “Right now, we’re nowhere near ready to compete in the Big East to be a factor in that league.

“Right now, the Friars have a long way to go.”

Once again, Providence was led offensively by David Duke (19 points) and Nate Watson (17 points). Finding a third scorer to join Duke and Watson continues to be a tall order as A.J. Reeves was the only other PC player to hit double figures (10 points).

“As a leader, I can take some of the responsibility in not getting the guys prepared as I should have. Your job is to inspire the group,” Duke said. “That put coach in a tough spot to try a lot of different lineups.”

In the blink of an eye, the first half went from pure bliss – the Friars scored the game’s first eight points – to a disjointed mess as ‘Bama ripped off a 17-3 run to lead 17-11.

With his team locked in a funk, Cooley kept dipping into his bench with the hope that something would eventually click. Instead, Providence could only watch as the Crimson Tide stretched a 22-15 lead to 30-20 with six minutes left before halftime.

Watson’s time on the court seemed to be in serious trouble after he picked up his second foul of the opening half. Cooley rolled the dice and re-inserted his big man, who continued to terrorize the Tide down low. He ended up netting 13 first-half points on 4-of-5 from the field, 5-of-6 from the line.

If Watson didn’t have the scoring touch, Providence would have been in real deep trouble at the half instead of trailing by 41-32. Removing Watson from the equation, PC was just 5-of-19 with Duke the only other Friar to make more than one field goal.

The Friars continued to trend water as they needed a three by Duke to match their halftime deficit at 54-45. From there, Alabama kicked it up several notches. When Joshua Primo (15 points) and Jaden Shackelford (15 points) dialed up back-to-back 3s, the Tide’s lead stood at 65-49 with 12:48 remaining. What was even more alarming was that many of the 3s that PC allowed were of the wide-open variety.

PC did manage to cut into a 74-51 deficit with 9:31 remaining with freshman Alyn Breed splashing in a 3 that capped off a 12-0 run. The lead for Alabama was down to 74-63 with 5:50 left, but order was soon restored as the Crimson Tide cruised to the finish line.

After three games in three days, it’s clear that the Friars are in deep trouble when they show up less than 100 percent.

“We’re a long way from where we want to be,” Duke said.

Added Cooley, “I’m not with how we played in this tournament. At least we came away with one win, but there are so many holes. As a staff, we have to figure out what works well. At the end of the day, we have to play some tough kids.”

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