PROVIDENCE — Had he suited up Tuesday night, would A.J. Reeves have been able to make up the 32-point thumping the Providence Friars absorbed at the hands of Marquette?

The quick-to-the-point answer is absolutely not. Reeves was averaging 11.2 points a game prior to sustaining an injury to a finger on his non-shooting hand in PC’s win over DePaul on New Year’s Day.

Could Reeves score more on a per-game basis? The talent and ability are certainly there, yet let’s remember that Ed Cooley’s offensive scheme is designed to allow all five players on the court to potentially make an impact.

Take a look at Nate Watson’s season to date. There are probably those who believed the fifth-year senior would go out and dominate in a fashion that would translate into a point-production spree which would place him in contention for Big East and national scoring honors.

Watson will carry a 13.5 average into Saturday’s noon game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center against St. John’s, a scoring mark that’s down three-plus points from a season ago.

Before reading too much into the drop-off, let’s revisit the point regarding offense under Cooley.

Yes, there have been Friar teams that have featured scoring stars where it was absolutely imperative for them to put the ball in the hoop — Bryce Cotton and Ben Bentil remain the only PC players in the Cooley era to average 20-plus points in a single season — but balanced scoring has long been a desired trait under the coach.

Translation: the sun doesn’t rise and set with how Watson performs. Including Reeves, the Friars feature five players who average between 8 to 13 points. From Watson to Reeves along with Noah Horchler, Al Durham, and Jared Bynum, the Friars have enjoyed five different leading scorers through the season’s first 15 games.

Looking back at the Marquette game, there’s no question that floor spacing was a major issue for the Friars. Not having Reeves meant the Golden Eagles were free to guard Watson straight up while also deploying a secondary defender who operated as a pseudo free safety.

It’s an approach that was utilized when PC faced Texas Tech in early December with the Red Raiders holding Watson to a single basket on four attempts.

The sledding proved equally as tough for Watson concerning a Marquette team that limited him to 4 of 11 shooting. Had Reeves been out there, it’s conceivable that Watson would have been able to feast a bit more on the youthful frontline rolled out by the Golden Eagles.

The absence of Reeves also took its toll on Horchler, who finished with more turnovers (three) than field goals (one). On a night when the Friars desperately needed Horchler to replicate the outside firepower that Reeves typically provides, the Friar who came in shooting 45% from beyond the arc ended up attempting just one 3-pointer.

“When he’s shooting the ball the way he has been, everyone is going to be alert to him,” said Cooley when asked about Horchler after the Marquette game. “Hopefully he learns from that and we learn as a group as we get on to the next game.

“Not having (Reeves) on the floor as a sniper definitely hurts and definitely showed on some of the open looks that we did miss. Normally he’s knocking down two or three of those,” added Cooley. “Again, it’s an opportunity for someone else to step up and contribute toward the Friars trying to win.”

In the interim while Reeves works his way back from his finger injury, the onus figures to fall on Horchler to pick up the shooting slack that translates into better floor spacing that in turn would benefit Watson, Durham, etc. So far this season, Horchler has posted seven games where he’s swished two or more 3s.

Per Hoop-Math.com, 100% of the threes made by Horchler this season have come off assists. That means either Durham or Bynum (or Watson if he’s being double teamed) must play an important role in helping to create opportunities for a Friar player who in turn needs to make sure he takes a page from arguably the most important ingredient that Reeves brings to the table for Providence.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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