PROVIDENCE — They missed some layups, though not nearly as many as they did at Northwestern.
On the subject of 3-point shooting, the Providence College men's basketball team dialed it back considerably from the let-it-fly approach that proved to be one of its downfalls when assessing the previous game.
It wasn’t an absolute demolition at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday afternoon, yet the Friars did more than enough to post a 68-47 victory over a Saint Peter’s team that offered very little in the way of resistance.
David Duke enjoyed another strong game with 17 points and six assists, while Alpha Diallo got back on track with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Providence led by 21 points at halftime and stretched the lead as high as 26 points before Saint Peter’s (0-2) made a slight push to make the second-half score a push — each side ended up with 26 points. The Peacocks actually won the rebounding battle, 36-34, and should take pride in the fact they held a Big East team to 29 percent shooting during the second half and 31 percent for the contest.
“We got stagnant, we got sloppy, and I think we got content and greedy. It’s going to be something we have to deal with and work on,” coach Ed Cooley said. “Overall, you’re happy with the win. I’d win ugly than lose pretty.”
From a win-loss perspective, shaking off Wednesday’s disheartening 72-63 loss at Northwestern was accomplished. Upon closer inspection, it would seem the Friars have regressed since opening the season with a noticeable bang — 106 points against Sacred Heart before blowing out NJIT by 29 points.
Part of the noticeable step backward can be traced to being short-handed, thus creating a bench where the options are becoming fewer and fewer. PC played Saturday’s contest without starting guard A.J. Reeves (back spasms) and reserve forward Greg Gantt, who flew home to North Carolina to deal with a family issue. Junior center Nate Watson (knee) remains in street clothes.
Despite being down to eight scholarship players, PC still had plenty of firepower to overwhelm Saint Peter’s, which, earlier in the week, lost at home to Bryant by 25 points. The hope for a Friar cakewalk never manifested itself. PC went from attempting 35 3-point shots against Northwestern to hoisting a mere 14 against the Peacocks, yet the struggles from deep continued. Providence made just three shots from downtown.
“We definitely weren’t thinking about shooting a lot of threes today, but we were definitely still on edge after the loss [to Northwestern],” Cooley said.
Asked if having two bye games in a row — the Friars host NEC newcomer Merrimack on Tuesday night — is good for the psyche after falling to a Big Ten team that, on paper, is expected to finish near the bottom in the standings, Cooley said, “You can look it a few different ways. You always want to play the best to try and prepare us for the Big East. Given what we’re going through, confidence is big. We’re down some key players who normally play a role in what we do. For us to be where we’re at … I’m happy, but I know we have a long way to go.”
Dealing with limited numbers does open the door for others who are closer to the end of the rotation to contribute. On that front, two players who immediately jumped out were Emmitt Holt and Jimmy Nichols, who started in place of Reeves and scored on back-to-back possessions as PC opened the game with a 13-4 lead. The sophomore finished with seven points, four rebounds and two blocks.
“When you have 10 guys and count seven or eight who could be starters, you have to play the guys who are going to produce. They have to earn it and deserve it,” said Cooley. “It’s a good problem to have because everyone feels they should be playing. There’s still opportunity out there, but there are going to be some days when a kid plays a lot and other days when they won’t. They just have to be ready.”
As for Holt, Cooley featured the graduate student as the Friars’ main option at center during most of the second half on Saturday. The coach had to like what he saw. By and large, Holt served his purpose by setting good screens and securing rebounds. As an added bonus, Holt got to the free-throw line four times on his way to two points and four rebounds. Eleven of his 18 minutes came after halftime.
“You want to see what Emmitt can do. With what he’s been through, can he withstand the grind once we get to Big East play?” Cooley said. “We’re going to play Emmitt at a few different positions, but we wanted to give him a long look in a game we thought we could win.”