PROVIDENCE — The Pip Effect is real, and for one game for the Providence Friars, it proved to be spectacular.
There were plenty of highlights from Luwane Pipkins’ debut with PC. From waiving the conductor’s wand to displaying on-target marksmanship, the newest Friar provided countless reasons why it’s so critical to have a rock-solid option at point guard.
Pipkins supplied 13 points and seven assists, the bulk of his production coming in the first half as Providence ran Sacred Heart out of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in emphatic fashion on Tuesday night, 106-57. The Friars placed seven players in double figures and buried 16 3-pointers.
Tuesday marked just the second time in Ed Cooley’s tenure at PC that one of his teams finished with 100 points in a regular season game. The first instance came last year in an overtime win at Boston College.
Yes, it clearly is a new year for a team that was offensively challenged last season. It’s also clear that Cooley’s preseason desire to push the ball is quite real. PC collected 16 fast-break points, handed out 31 assists on 39 baskets, and connected on 51 percent from the floor.
“End-line to end-line, we’re trying to be one of the fastest teams in the country,” Cooley said. “We’ve got some depth so I don’t think we’ll wear out. When you add in the athleticism and the ability to pass the ball, it will allow us to stretch our rotation if we need to.”
Alpha Diallo went about his business to the tune of 19 points and 14 rebounds while scoring punch was also provided by Emmitt Holt (16 points) and A.J. Reeves (15 points). David Duke flirted with a triple-double — 11 points, eight assists, and six rebounds — while Kalif Young and Maliek White each chipped in with 10 points.
The true catalyst, however, was Pipkins. As the Friars stretched their lead from 13 points with 11:34 left in the first half to 29 points with 3:44 remaining, there was Pipkins. From feeding Reeves on an alley-oop dunk, to finding Reeves on the right wing for a 3, to making a shot from distance, Pipkins was all over the place.
“We’re emphasizing pushing the ball a lot and if that’s what I’m going to do, that’s what I’m here for,” Pipkins said “I’m just happy to be here and trying to win some games.”
It was a dive for a loose ball that occurred near the scorer’s table that had Cooley beaming the most when asked about Pipkins. To the coach, that particular sequence in the first half spoke volumes about just how dialed in the Friars were on this particular evening.
“That’s something small that the eye has to see and recognize. That’s energy and enthusiasm and passion,” Cooley said
If this was a boxing match, a good referee would have intervened and stopped the proceedings before things got too out of hand. It was a total mismatch right from the opening tap. The Friars led by 29 points at the half and barely broke a sweat during the second half. PC won the rebounding battle with ease (47-37) and held Sacred Heart to 32 percent from the floor.
“I think we’re deep because we have experience,” Cooley said. “I’m going to have some tough decisions to make as these rotations get a little shorter as these games get more difficult. Right now, I’m pleased with how these guys are contributing overall.”
You knew Cooley had to be pleased with how the first half unfolded when he inserted junior walk-on Andrew Fonts with seven seconds left. Fellow PC walk-on Tommy Dempsey was at the scorer’s table and ready to check in, yet the freshman would have to wait until the second half before logging his first minutes in a college setting.
Take away the 0-for-9 shooting stretch the Friars endured and they most likely would have gone into the break with a lead that proved much greater than the sizeable 59-30 cushion that featured contributions up and down the roster. Diallo (14 points, eight rebounds), Pipkins (11 points, five assists) and Holt (12 points) were the primary catalysts, yet there was also a dash of youthful promise to go along with the grizzled veterans.
Freshman Greg Gantt had been sidelined for much of the preseason with an Achilles injury that was believed to keep him on the bench as the regular season tipped off.
On Tuesday, he was out there for pregame warmups with the rest of his teammates. It was certainly an encouraging sign, but would it translate into an actual appearance?
The answer to that question came at 4:09 of the first half when Gantt checked in. Rust didn’t appear a concern for Gantt, who entered with the Friars enjoying a 44-21 lead. He took three shots, made all of them. Gantt ended up with seven points.
Cooley said that Gantt had only practiced two days before adding, “He’s got a live body and one of these gifted athletes. He’s never worked this hard and been held accountable from a defensive standpoint. We want to try and score off our defense more.”
Sophomore Jimmy Nichols warmed up but did not play Tuesday. Cooley’s reasoning: “He wasn’t feeling well.” … Diallo continues to rack up the preseason recognition. This week, he was named one of 50 players to the 2020 Naismith Trophy Watch List. He’s also one of 50 players up for consideration for the 2020 Wooden Award Watch List. Last month, Diallo was a unanimous preseason First-Team All-Big East pick and also named to the Julius Erving Award Watch List. … Sitting behind the bench was 2020 big man Josh Ogundele, who is prepping this season at Worcester Academy and is originally from London. Ogundele has already taken official visits to Cincinnati, Iowa, and URI. … The 8,103 fans made sure to give Holt a nice ovation when he checked in at 16:45 of the first half. Holt had missed much of the previous two seasons with abdominal issues. “My teammates and my family, they’re my motivation for me. I’m just happy to be out there on the floor,” said Holt. … PC’s next game is Saturday afternoon at 4:30 against NJIT.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03