Thoughts from the Road: Friars Impress in Opener

  • First, I want to say how great it felt to be back at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for another season of Providence basketball. It was nice to see some familiar faces and talk hoops with people I only see at the Dunk.
  • As for the game, I was pleasantly surprised by how good Providence looked in their season opener with a lot of new players, both on the roster and in different roles.

  • Emmitt Holt has been better than I anticipated, though Ed Cooley said after the game that he brought Holt to Providence “to be a stud.” He was a stud in this game and put up a career-high 22 points. Holt definitely has game on the offensive side of the ball, more than I thought. But one play that was eye-catching was one of his 3 blocked shots. As the Vermont player seemed on the verge of releasing the ball, Holt appeared to be still on the ground. Then in a nanosecond Holt was up in the air and his long arm extended to swat the shot. It was a “wow” moment for me. If Holt can be a steady presence it will take some of the preseason pressure off Rodney Bullock on the scoring front.
  • Bullock played well, overall. He definitely took a few “heat-check” types of shots throughout the game, but 6/13 from the field and 3/5 from beyond the arc for 18 points in 25 minutes is a line I’m sure Cooley would take from him every night. The 4 turnovers were not great, obviously, and Bullock must be stronger with the ball.
  • Kyron Cartwright isn’t Kris Dunn and he’ll never be Kris Dunn. Having said that, Cartwright is a pretty damn good player in his own right. He seems to hit one or two crazy/off-balance shots every game and he ran the team very efficiently in this game. Cartwright managed 12 assists and just 2 turnovers in 32 minutes of action and Vermont’s Trae Bell-Haynes is no slouch. The 12 assists was a career-high for Cartwright and only the second time he’s every been in double digit assist territory. That other time Cartwright dished out 10 assists in December of his freshman season against fellow America East foe Stony Brook. He scored 10 points in that Stony Brook game, which is his only career double-double because he stopped the scoring short against Vermont with 9 points on 3/7 shooting. He definitely needs to be a more efficient scorer but he was excellent running this team and dishing out the ball in spots where his teammates could score.
  • Cooley opted to start Ryan Fazekas, which is something I proposed in a recent Friartown Fan Voice podcast episode. Cooley discussed Fazekas needing to see the ball go in the net early after Providence’s exhibition win over Carleton at the end of October and getting his shooting ability into the starting lineup seemed to me the be a good way to get Fazekas early looks. Despite starting, Fazekas didn’t actually get his first shot off until the 6:52 mark of the first half. That’s something Cooley needs to work on. Vermont was certainly well aware of Fazekas’ reputation as a shotmaker because they were flipping between man-to-man and zone whenever Fazekas would leave the game. But at this point, Fazekas isn’t really able to create his own shot off the dribble so the coaches need to figure out a way to get him some clean looks early in games. Fazekas played 15 of the 20 minutes in the first half and only got two shots off. That’s not enough for a player that may be the best shooter on a team that seems likely to struggle shooting the basketball.
  • The final member of the starting 5 last night was Jalen Lindsey. Lindsey certainly bulked up in the offseason and he went through pre-game drills with the big men, for what that’s worth. With how many seemingly interchangeable parts Cooley has on this roster, it doesn’t seem to really matter exactly what “position” many of these Friars actually play because they may guard the opposing 2-guard on defense but end up playing the 4 on offense. Lindsey is a good example of that. He played a very good game on the defensive end in his 27 minutes with 3 steals and 22 rebounds and he hit a pair of 3-pointers on the other end. Even when he was a tick late on some defensive rotations he was in the right place and knew what he had to do. Those things can be cleaned up with more game reps after not playing a game since last March. Lindsey’s role on this team is different than the last two seasons. It will be interesting to see if he comes out of his shell as he takes more shots closer to the basket and whether that will have as positive of an impact on his confidence and game overall as I expect.
  • The first sub off the bench was Maliek White. White plays with absolutely no fear and you can tell he was his high school team’s go-to scorer. His box score doesn’t speak loudly, but one interesting takeaway I had was that Cooley was comfortable enough with the freshman to put him out there both alongside and in lieu of Cartwright. I think White will have his share of double-digit scoring games in his rookie season, but continued growth and development are the keys.
  • Next off the Providence bench was Kalif Young. I thought Young’s 5 minute stretch when he first entered the game was one of the more impressive 5 minutes stretches of any player on the court last night. He may not have provided as much scoring punch as Holt or Bullock but he was very active on the glass and in the lane. He made his presence felt and is way more athletic than I expected. His pass to Holt as Holt dove to the rim from the foul line was something you don’t often see from first year players. Providence’s frontcourt looks to be in very good shape going forward.
  • Isaiah Jackson was the next man off the bench and though he appears to have the body of a Big East player, it remains to be seen whether he is athletic enough to be more than a glue guy/role player at Providence. His jumper lacks fluidity and he appears to be really aiming the ball instead of just shooting it. He did provide some nice help on the glass to lead the Friars with 6 rebounds and it’s way to early to write him off. Remember he’s only in his second year of college basketball and is coming off a long layoff having to sit out last season as a transfer.
  • Alpha Diallo continues to be impressive with the ball in his hands. He showed poise beyond his years when pressured by pesky Vermont defenders and put up 6 points in only 11 minutes of action. One interesting thing I noted about Diallo was that he initiated the offense at times, so it’s clear that Cooley trusts him already to be another ballhandler for this team.
  • Drew Edwards was dressed and participated in pre-game warmups but did not play. The staff is being cautious with him in the early going since he has only been fully cleared for contact for about two weeks.
  • Providence assisted on 16 of their 27 made field goals. That’s a very good assist rate of 59.3%, which would have been top-40 nationally last season. Last year’s Friar team had an assist rate of 62.4%, which was ranked 13th nationally. 16 is a much better number than the 8 they had in their exhibition win over Carleton.
  • Another positive team stat from last night’s win was going 17/20 from the free throw line. Shooting 85% from the charity stripe will only help a team that may need to force the ball to the rim if their outside shooting isn’t hitting on any given night.
  • 40 points from the starting 4 and 5 men is an excellent start, though Vermont’s frontcourt lacks anything close to Big East size. Providence had 32 points in the paint, while also surrendering 32 points in the paint on defense.
  • Attendance at the Dunk was 8,310 and the student section was full early and they came organized with a chant sheet and signs/posters. Hopefully they keep it up because it’s always more fun at the Dunk when the students are there and engaged in the action.
  • Up next is a tough road test at Ohio State as part of the second annual Gavitt Tipoff Games. The Friars will travel to Columbus on Wednesday and the game tips Thursday at 7pm on the BTN. The Big East opened with a win in this year’s Gavitt Games when Villanova defeated Purdue, 76-73 last night. The Big East and Big Ten split last year’s series, 4-4.

Still haven’t seen the game or want to re-watch it? Here is a replay courtesy of FriarTV:

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