Game Notes & Preview: (12) Providence (14-2, 2-1) at Creighton (12-5, 3-1) 1/12/16

Where: CenturyLink Center – Omaha, NE

When: 8:30pm EST

How: FS1 (Dick Stockton & Nick Bahe)/WEEI 103.7 FM and Friars.com (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)/FriarTV

Game Notes

  • Providence and Creighton will meet for the 16th time on Tuesday with the Friars leading the series, 10-5. The Friars are 3-3 in games played in Omaha. The first game was played February 2, 1961 in Providence. The Friars went 2-0 against the Bluejays last season in Big East play.
  • Creighton is 12-5 (3-1) on the season. The Bluejays are led by Greg McDermott, who is in his sixth season at the helm of the Creighton program. Their 3 league wins come against St. John’s, Georgetown and Seton Hall. They defeated the Red Storm and Pirates on the road. Their lone loss came at home against Villanova. The Bluejays are led in scoring by junior Maurice Watson, who averages 13.8 points/game. Senior Geoffrey Groselle is the leading rebounder, averaging 6.3 rebounds/game. Watson was named Big East Player of the Week on Monday.
  • Geoffrey Groselle leads the Big East in field goal percentage (74.8%). All 111 of his shot attempts have been 2-pointers. His 83 made field goals ties him for 9th in the league. Groselle is also 10th in blocks (1.35/game). Khyri Thomas has the 6th best field goal percentage (64.9%) in the Big East. Maurice Watson is second in the league behind Kris Dunn in assists (6.6/game) and is tied for the 7th most made field goals (84) in the league. Toby Hegner has the 5th best 3-point shooting percentage in the league (41.7%), while Isaiah Zierden has made the most 3-pointers (42) while attempting the second most treys (107). Zierden is also second in the league behind Dunn in steals (1.71/game)
  • Kris Dunn leads the Big East in assists (7.3/game) and steals (3.2/game), is 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (39.5%) and is second in the league in scoring (17.7 points/game) behind his teammate Ben Bentil (19.4 points/game). Bentil has attempted the second most free throws attempted (79) and made (97) in the league. He trails Billy Garrett Jr. in both categories for the lead. Bentil is also 5th in rebounding (7.9/game), has made the most field goals in the Big East (109) and is 7th in free throw percentage (81.4%). Rodney Bullock is also in the top 10 in the league in three categories. Bullock is tied for 9th in field goals made (83), 6th in rebounding (7.8/game) and 5th in blocks (1.5/game).
  • The Friars slipped outside the top 10 in both polls this week after their home loss to Marquette on January 5th. The Friars are currently ranked 12th in both polls.
  • Opening Line: (12) Providence +4 at Creighton 1/12/16

Kenpom InstaGamePrepTM

Data through games of Sunday, January 10, 2016

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Game Preview

Providence travels to Omaha for a Tuesday night tilt against Creighton. The Friars are coming off a home loss to Marquette on January 5th, while the Bluejays recorded a road win their last time out at Seton Hall on January 9th. Creighton is already 1 Big East win away from equaling their total of 4 league wins a season ago and they are 2 wins away from equaling their overall win total of 14 from last season. Greg McDermott’s team is one of the best offensive units in the Big East, leading the league with 85.2 points/game, 49.6% field goal percentage, 38.7% 3-point shooting percentage and a 1.40 points per possession mark. They make the most 3-pointers/game and have the second most assists/game. Maurice Watson, Jr. is a waterbug who gets to the rim at will and is coming off a 13 points, 14 assists game in the win over Seton Hall. He also scored a career-high 27 points in the teams’ win over Georgetown the game before that. Watson is a top 5 point guard in the Big East in his first season in the league after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Watson came to Creighton after two productive seasons at Boston University.

The probable starters according to the game notes and prior box scores are:

Providence
  • Kris Dunn – #3 – Junior
  • Junior Lomomba – #32 – Junior
  • Jalen Lindsey – #21 – Sophomore
  • Rodney Bullock – #5 – Sophomore
  • Ben Bentil – #0 – Sophomore
Creighton
  • Maurice Watson, Jr. – #10 – Junior
  • Isaiah Zierden – #21 – Junior
  • Khyri Thomas – #2 – Freshman
  • Cole Huff – #13 – Junior
  • Geoffrey Groselle – #41 – Senior

The keys to victory for Providence will be:

  1. Contain Maurice Watson’s penetration
  2. Defend the 3-point line
  3. Re-ignite Rodney Bullock

Providence has been very good at the second point. The Friars have forced Big East opponents to shoot 7/41 through 3 league games, good for 17%. They have been hurt at the rim, however. Providence’s opponents have taken 34.6% of their shots at the rim and have converted at a 58% clip, according to Hoop-Math.com. To put those numbers into perspective, Purdue has one of the best defensive 2-point percentages and they only give up 26% of their shots at the rim, allowing opponents to convert 55.4% of the time.

Providence’s last game gives a very visual reminder of these stats. Marquette took 48.8% of their shots at the rim and converted on 66.7% of those attempts. Providence needs to make some of those shots at the rim become 2-point jumpers, but they have struggled at stopping penetration and haven’t been able to defend the rim well. Keeping Watson out of the lane will allow the Friars to force more difficult shots for Creighton, while also limiting Watson’s ability to drive and kick for 3-pointers.

Kris Dunn will need to be disciplined and not try to do too much reaching against Watson and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rotation of bodies thrown at the Philadelphia native with players like Junior Lomomba and Drew Edwards also getting cracks at keeping the quick guard in check.

When Providence has been successful this season, it has usually been because there are other players besides Dunn and Ben Bentil stepping up and scoring. There were some games early in the season against lesser opponents where Dunn could carry the Friars himself or a combination of Dunn and one of Bentil/Bullock/Fazekas was good enough. Now that Providence is in Big East play, the Friars need to have a consistent 3rd scorer to go along with the production Cooley expects to get from both Dunn and Bentil on a nightly basis. Bullock seems like a prime candidate for get back into the form he showed in the league opener at Butler when he went off for a career-high 25 points. Bullock presents a matchup problem for Creighton who has bigger players than Providence on their frontline but Bullock is more athletic than just about all of them. Dunn and Bentil figure to get their customary 37 points and it would be a big help if Bullock got closer to the 25 point mark than the 8 point mark that he put up last time out against Marquette.

Prediction: Providence 77 Creighton 76

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