The Big East conference has been turned upside down as of late, and the Providence Friars taking down #3 Villanova at The Dunk on Wednesday night was just another example of what’s been going on in conference play.
It was an ugly game from the start with both point guards/leaders Jalen Brunson and Kyron Cartwright picking up early fouls. Both teams went on long stretches of scoring droughts, but in the end, it was Providence that was able to get the win they desperately needed. The Friars now have two victories over top five teams, which is the first time this has happened in The Ed Cooley Era.
Saturday, the Friars head to Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indy to take on another skilled and well coached Big East team in Butler. Kelan Martin has been on absolute fire of late averaging 25.6/6 over the last five games. Here are some keys to building off of the momentum from last game.
- Smart start – Cartwright has to be smarter about not picking up early fouls like he did vs. Villanova. Providence needs him in there to set the tone, but also to close out the halves. No one wants to see him sitting on the bench.
- Paint dominance on defense – When Young and Watson move their feet, they play above-average defense. They need to establish the paint early. If Butler plans on taking it in the paint, let them know that they are going to have to earn their free throws.
- No “And 1’s – They definitely lead the country (in my opinion) in allowing these. They allowed three of them early in the second half of the Villanova game. If you are going to commit to fouling, foul. If not, make a defensive play. Too many fouls and baskets were made off these. Luckily, Villanova struggled from the line shooting 72.7%. It could be a different story on Saturday with Butler ranking second in the Big East at 78% from the line.
- Keep that rotation – It seemed like Coach Cooley finally settled into his rotation on Wednesday, and one that also has the most experience (aside from Watson). Isaiah Jackson played 29 minutes off the bench, had a few big 3’s and made some nice stops on the defensive end to add to his 11 points and eight rebounds. Maliek White had a key drive to the hoop late in the second half to help keep the lead while Cartwright was on the bench in foul trouble. Drew Edwards, although no points, showed he could be called upon to take over point guard duties and play clutch defense in big moments as well. The Friars will need this type of play and experience come Big East Tournament time.
- Switch on Martin – All games are must wins as we approach March, and in must win games, all teams need to keep their opponents on edge. Saturday, Providence can’t afford to have Alpha Diallo, Jalen Lindsay or Rodney Bullock in foul trouble. It may be a good idea for Cooley to switch these guys off and on Martin to avoid foul trouble, but also to keep fresh legs for the second half.
- Point Guard Match-Up – The fans and Big East were robbed of what should have been one of the best point guard match ups of the year between Brunson and Cartwright on Wednesday night due to foul trouble. On Saturday, there is a chance for another great match up with Kamar Baldwin vs. Cartwright. Baldwin is averaging 16.4 points per game over the last five while Cartwright is coming off of a 17-point performance against Villanova.
- Use the Timeouts – After made baskets and timeouts during crunch time in the second half on Wednesday, Villanova started pressing and putting pressure on Providence bringing the ball up court. It almost seemed like the Friars had never seen this before in their lives and decided they were just going to throw the ball away. Call a timeout, set up a play, and be smart.
- Crash the boards – The Friars had 12 offensive rebounds on Wednesday. If you are going to have a lousy night shooting the ball like they did Wednesday (37% from the field and 32% from deep), they might as well crash the boards to get second chance looks.
- Bench production – Providence can’t afford to let Sean McDermott get open looks and get comfortable coming off the bench. He shoots 45% from three and pretty much only shoots 3’s. When he checks in, cover him as soon he walks over half court. Either use White’s speed or Bullock’s length to keep him off of his spots.
- Do not look ahead – Take care of what is in front of you, don’t think about other games, past or present. We’re on to Butler!