By Sullivan Burgess
The last week has been quite eventful for the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team. From the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden to the National Invitational Tournament at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, the team experienced ups and downs that ultimately closed the season, which had also been a rollercoaster.
On Wednesday, March 13, the team, ranked as the eighth seed for the Big East Tournament, faced conference rivals Butler University. After a close first half, the Friars began to pull away and defeat Butler 80-57. Shooting 55.8 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from the three point line. The last time the team shot this well was in 1993 against the University of Connecticut.
Four players achieved double digits in points during this game. The leader was guard Maliek White ’20. White had a consistent and career-high 19 points providing a spark throughout the entire game, being the team’s go-to player. Alpha Diallo ’20 also scored 18 points with two threes, David Duke ’22 recorded 16 points shooting 6-8 from the field and 2-3 from the three. Lastly, Isaiah Jackson ’19RS, came off the bench with another performance of clutch shooting for 13 points.
The next day for the first game of the quarterfinals, the Friars had to face the top-seed team of the tournament and #23-ranked team Villanova University. While the Friars kept the pace for most of the game, they ultimately failed and lost the game, 62-73.
The team was led in scoring by Nate Watson ’21 with 15 points, and more double digit scoring from Diallo and Jackson. After the game, Coach Cooley said to the press, “Our youth and mistakes on the floor came back to bite us all day…We play hard as hell and are right in these games and then you can’t score enough. It’s a microcosm of our season.”
Villanova would go on to win the Big East Tournament, earning the title of back to back champions of the tournament and guaranteeing their place in the 2019 March Madness NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, back in Providence, the Friars had to wait and watch for their placement in either the March Madness Tournament or the NIT.
Cooley was open to the media about the possibility of being selected for the NIT, stating, “We earned exactly what we got this year. If we get into the NIT, I’ll be excited about it because I still want to play with this young group. If we don’t, we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror. We deserved to be in that 8-9 (Big East) game. That was our body of work.”
Four Big East schools were selected for the March Madness tournament, including Villanova, Seton Hall University, Marquette University, and St. John’s University. Later that night, the Friars were selected to host the University of Arkansas as the fourth seed for the NIT hosted at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The day came on Tuesday night, and sadly the Friars’ struggle throughout the season came back to haunt them as they fell to Arkansas, 72-84. While White put another career high of 19 points, the team shot 38.7 percent from the field goal, and 13 percent from the three point line.
The back and forth season came to a close, leaving the team at a record of 18-16. It was certainly not the season the coach or players had hoped for, but the pieces are in place for the team to be successful next season.