Men’s Basketball Continues to Shine

by npatano


Friar Sports


Friars Complete Strong Winter Break

Liam Tormey ’22

Sports Co-Editor

Winter break came in the middle of December for the students of Providence College, but the Men’s Basketball Team continued their hot start to the season.

The Friars started Big East conference play on Dec. 18, the last day of finals, against the No. 20-ranked University of Connecticut. Before conference play began, coach Ed Cooley’s team was 10-1 and looking to start off conference play on the right foot. 

The Harry A. Gampel Pavilion would host old rivals in the Huskies and Friars to kick off conference play. PC was looking to win their sixth consecutive game and, thanks to the help of AJ Reeves ’22 and his 16 points, the Friars were victorious in a 57-53 game. 

Reeves, a senior, went 4-8 from three-point territory and was crucial in opening up their biggest lead of the first half where they led 31-22 after 20 minutes of play, and Reeves was responsible for 12 of them. 

Ed Croswell ’22 would add 11 points and four rebounds, while the other big man Nate Watson ’22GS had 10 points and seven rebounds. 

Jared Bynum ’23 returned to play after missing four games with a leg injury, and he would be a spark off the bench adding nine points and six rebounds. 

After the game, Ed Cooley said, “We knew coming on the road would be a challenge for us. I couldn’t be more proud of our men.” This would be the best start to PC’s season under Cooley since the 2015-16 season, a year the Friars reached No. 8 in the polls and won an NCAA Tournament game. 

After a statement win against a ranked opponent, the Friars were looking to extend their six-game winning streak 11 days later when they would host No. 15-ranked Seton Hall University Pirates. 

In between the games, the Friars would be ranked No. 21 in the national polls, the first time since February of 2016. Since this week, the team has kept their Top 25 standing. 

The Pirates came to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center following the Christmas period and a time when they were dealing with several players in COVID-19 protocols. Seton Hall would be without Ike Obiago and Tyrese Samuel, and the Friars took advantage. 

Noah Horchler ’22GS recorded his fifth double-double of the season, dropping home game-highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds in the 70-65 victory. 

Nate Watson tallied 14 points and became just the 18th player in Providence College history to record 1,500 or more career points. 

The Friars have five graduates this season and two seniors, and after the game, Cooley said, “We have a veteran group… You can go into every game expecting to win when you have an older group.” 

A few days later, the Friars would travel to Chicago for a contest with DePaul University. From the very beginning, Cooley’s squad was ready to play and controlled every aspect of the game. At halftime, the Friars were up 42-17 after scoring 22 unanswered points. The Blue Demons were unable to overcome the deficit and the Friars defeated DePaul, 70-53.

Another game and another contribution for the veteran team. It was contributions from two transfers that helped the Friars to their eighth consecutive victory. Indiana University transfer Al Durham ’22GS and University of South Carolina transfer Justin Minaya ’22GS both had double-digit scoring numbers.

Minaya has been great defensively for the Friars and continues to guard every opponent’s best player. 

Durham would end the game with 17 points while Minaya finished with a double-double, 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. 

After the game, Cooley said, “We were able to set the tone early. I thought we played a really good game today.” The Friars were now 13-1 and 3-0 in Big East play.

Then, the Friars traveled to play a desperate Marquette Golden Eagles team, and it was one everyone wanted to forget.

PC committed two turnovers on their first three possessions and the Golden Eagles were up to a 6-0 lead. A couple of minutes later, the Friars closed a double-digit deficit down to four, but then Marquette went on a 20-0 run and never looked back. At halftime, the Friars were down by 20 and then lost the game by 32, with a final score of 88-56. 

The only positive light from the game was Nate Watson setting the record for the most games in program history with 137. 

Cooley was still upbeat about his team after the blowout and before Saturday’s game against St. John’s University, he said, “I’ll have my team ready to play.”

The Red Storm came to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center that weekend and although the Friars trailed at halftime by three, an explosive second half thanks to Watson’s 18 of final 22 points, the Friars got back to winning ways with an 83-73 victory. 

This win was Ed Cooley’s 300th career victory. He was emotional after the game saying, “When you do something that you love, you’re at a place that you love, and you work with people that give you the opportunity to do this, it’s amazing.”

The Friars were feeling good heading into a big stretch of games, but COVID-19 ran rampant in the team before the matchup with Creighton University. 

Three straight games would be canceled for the Friars due to COVID-19 within the program, and Coach Cooley admitted he tested positive along with some players and staff. The Friars would be off for 12 days before playing again on Jan. 20 against Georgetown University, a game which was rescheduled from earlier in the season after the Hoyas had COVID-19 within their program.

It was the first week of the second semester and the first game back for the Friars after the mini-hiatus. The Friars were the No. 21-ranked team, and the Hoyas gave them everything they had. 

Ed Croswell recorded a season-high 15 points, going perfect from the field with seven shots taken. Al Durham had 15 second half points, and Noah Horchler added 14 points. The Friars won 83-75.

With different players stepping up every game, Coach Cooley has said, “Our team is very close and connected. This team has really bought into their roles.” 

A noon tip-off against Butler University last Sunday saw the Friars at the top of the Big East standings. The team was 15-2 and 5-1 in Big East play for the first time since 2003-04 and had won 10 out of their last 11 games. They also went into the contest against the Bulldogs 11-0 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. 

A back-and-forth game is the tale of almost every Big East game, and this one was no different. After the Friars were up six at the half, the Bulldogs clawed their way back and took the lead in the second. 

Once again, thanks to the force of Ed Croswell and Nate Watson who continue to get better, the Friars remained perfect at home with a 69-62 victory. The Friars improved to 16-2 for the first time since the 1977-78 season and 6-1 in conference play for the first time ever. 

This win was Cooley’s 210th, and he surpassed the great Dave Gavitt for second place in all-time wins as Friar head coach. 

There is a lot to be excited for with this team, but this is just the start, and Cooley knows it: “We’ve still got a long way to go, but where we are today is a credit to the players.”


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