PROVIDENCE – Talk about your responses.
Facing a Big East team that owns wins against Villanova and Marquette, the Providence Friars snapped a two-game losing streak by emphatically grounded St. John’s, 78-59, on Wednesday night. The win for PC completes a season sweep of the Red Storm, who were coming off a victory over Villanova at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Now 15-12 overall and 5-9 in Big East play, the Friars succeeded in turning the page after getting manhandled by Xavier (75-61) over the weekend. PC never once trailed en route to holding St. John’s to 36.1 percent for the game.
The 43.1 percent the Friars shot represents the team’s best mark in a conference game this season.
How it went down: PC scored the game’s first nine points, while St. John’s missed its first eight shots. Nearly seven minutes went by before the Red Storm finally put the ball in the hoop.
The visitors closed to within three (28-25) with 1:48 remaining in the first half but hoops from Alpha Diallo and Nate Watson helped Providence finish the half strong as PC grabbed a 34-26 lead at the break.
A three from freshman A.J. Reeves and another hoop from Watson pushed the lead to double digits with 1:03 gone by in the second half. From there, St. John’s began to show visible signs of frustration. Marvin Clark II picked up a technical that doubled as his first personal foul at the 17:28 mark. Twenty eight seconds later, Clark was whistled for another tech while watching from the bench.
The lead for Providence reached 20 points (58-38) with 12:17 left. After working the sidelines at a feverish clip, St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin sat down next to his assistants as the final 10 minutes played out.
PC’s lead peaked at 28 points (74-46) after Diallo soared in for a layup with 4:31 left. The junior ended up with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Beast mode: With 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and nine rebounds, Nate Watson was an unstoppable force. His most memorable play came at 11:22 of the first half when Watson rotated to the basket to thwart Sedee Keita as the St. John’s forward went up for a dunk.
“That definitely gave me momentum,” Watson said.
Whether it was splitting the double team or displaying sheer power, Watson was able to have his way against a Red Storm frontline that seemed particularly edgy after Clark exited.
“They were rough out there and beating me up, but I was able to keep my composure,” Watson said. “They were obviously made at us but we didn’t want to get any technical fouls and see guys get ejected.”
Frozen ponds: For the second this season, Providence succeeded in neutralizing the Big East’s second leading scorer. St. John’s junior Shamorie Ponds made just two baskets – both coming in in the second half – on nine shots to finish with four points. In two games this season, the Friars limited Ponds to 9-of-26 shooting.
“I think St. John’s is one of the best offensive teams in the country. They have so many different weapons. We just fortunate they didn’t have a good shooting day,” PC coach Ed Cooley said. “Our guys were on high alert and I thought our length played a big part. The zone kind of slowed them down, but they didn’t get clean looks at the basket like they’re normally used to.”
More than making do: The Friars knew they wouldn’t have junior reserve center Kalif Young (concussion). They weren’t planning on playing the final 38 minutes without Makai Ashton-Langford, who landed hard and rolled his left ankle after hitting a three as part of a strong start for Providence. It was a tough break for Ashton-Langford, who made his third start of the season.
Afterwards, Cooley revealed that Drew Edwards had been slowed with a virus, though the redshirt junior ended up logging 12 minutes. Six Friars ended up playing 21-plus minutes with Maliek White (11 points in 33 minutes) and Jackson (11 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes) playing key roles off the bench.
“We just made sure we stayed focused and disciplined. We hard in practice over the past few days and stuck to the game-plan,” Jackson said.
“We wanted to come into the game hungry, knowing we had lost a couple of games,” White said.
Pretty in pink: Cooley opened his postgame press conference by talking about why the Friars wore pink sneakers and pink uniforms on Wednesday.
“Many of us have been impacted by cancer. I appreciate Providence College for making great light of it,” Cooley said. “In saying that, we’re 2-for-2 with the pink sneakers. Maybe we should wear pink all the time.”
The coach was referencing last year when the Friars beat Villanova on the inaugural Pink Out night at The Dunk.
Quote of the night: “There are sometimes when you play at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center when the gods just bless you. This was one of those days when God looked upon the Friars.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03