By Justin Bishop ’24
The Providence College Men’s Basketball team has been on a tear in the early season, posting a record of 8-1 as of Sunday, Dec. 5.
The Friars won their first five games of the season for the first time since the 2014-2015 season. After dropping a game to the University of Virginia in the Roman Legends Classic Championship game 58-40, the leading scorer for the Friars was Noah Horchler ’22GS with 17 points and seven rebounds.
The Friars won their next three games against St. Peter’s University 85-71 where Horchler again was the leading scorer with 25 points and seven rebounds. The team won a nail-biter against Texas Tech University where the Friars came out on top 72-68, and Al Durham ’22 was the leading scorer with 23 points. Most recently the Friars took down ocean state rival University of Rhode Island, beating the Rams 66–52, and Horchler was once again the leader in points with 16.
Durham scored 23 points against Texas Tech, including clutch shots and a tough left-side jumper to put PC up 67-65 with just under two minutes left to play; that sealed the game for the Friars.
This prompted Texas Tech head coach Mark Adams to remark, “If we could trade for Durham, we would. ”Durham, who is averaging 14 points, three assists, and three rebounds, has proved himself to be the primary ball-handler for the Friars offense.
The former Big Ten Conference point guard is averaging his highest PPG in his career and credits the culture around Providence Basketball as his reason for transferring.
He said, “Friar fans are everything I estimated when I decided to come here.” Durham and all five on the court at the time waved their arms up and down to incite the crowd with 2:00 to go against Texas Tech.
The team was definitely thankful the 10,000 fans at the game were on their side, and Cooley noted that the crowd was a big factor in PC’s win, saying, “The crowd willed us to four or five additional baskets and helped us win the game.”
The Friars are dominating their opponents in the paint thanks to the new “one-two combo” of Nate Watson ’22GS and Ed Croswell ’22.
However, after the URI game, Cooley stated, “Croswell is currently out playing a Big East All-First Team Center in Nate Watson.” This is evident in the most recent games facing Texas Tech and URI, where he posted an 11-point and four-assist game and followed it up by posting a double-double, collecting 13 points and a career high of 15 rebounds, while also shooting 5-5 from the field (FGM).
On the other hand, Watson had seven points on 3-7 FGM against URI and only had five points and five rebounds against Texas Tech.
Clearly Coach Cooley is right when he says that Croswell is outplaying him. After the URI game, Coach Cooley said, “We call him Croswell Cleaners because of how he cleans up rebounds on both ends of the court.”
This got a rise out of Croswell, who did not deny that he is a rebound machine. The head coach of the URI Rams had played against Croswell when he played in the Atlantic-10 Conference during his time at Lasalle University.
Joking around after the game, he mentioned, “I am sure glad that I do not have to play against him twice a year.”
The praise from other coaches on the way they play can be attributed back to how Coach Cooley teaches his players. Cooley could not praise Croswell enough; finishing up the press conference, he said, “If we did not have Ed, we would’ve lost the past two games.”
It is hard for anyone to deny this claim, but Providence could not have won the past two games, along with many others this season, without Indiana University transfer Al Durham.
Cooley likes the way the team is playing as one and not obsessed with trying to be the leading scorer or making highlight reel plays when an open pass is there.
This is evident after a tweet put out by Watson, after the Texas Tech win, saying, ”I love when teams think I’m the only threat, I gotta whole squad #gofriars #urinext.” The tweet is referring to teams locking down Watson, which allows other players, like Croswell, Noah Horchler ’21, and Durham open space. This just proves how close together the team is and that a Pre-Season All Conference forward can take a backseat if needed when someone else is on a role.
The team struggled against Virginia because they could not keep their composure when the Cavaliers went on scoring runs.
After the past three games since Virginia, Coach Cooley commented, “The mental maturity of all our guys is unbelievable… we are battle-tested playing against seven footers that are on Virginia, the University of Northwestern, and the University of Wisconsin. We are ready for conference play.” The confidence of a head coach like Cooley makes his players tough to compete against.
In each game so far, Coach Cooley has praised the crowd as the first thing he says in the post-game press conference. After the URI game, he said, “Defense won the battle on the court, but the crowd won us the game.” The final attendance taken during the game against the Rams was a whopping 12,945 people, the largest crowd so far this season.
The Friars picked up a big win on Dec. 8 against Vermont University Catamounts where they controlled the whole game and came out victorious 68-58.
Big East Conference play will begin on Saturday, Dec. 18 against rival and currently No. 17-ranked University of Connecticut.