Game Notes & Preview: Providence (0-0) vs Houston Baptist (0-0) 11/10/17

Where: Alumni Hall – Providence, RI

When: 7:00pm EST

How: FSN (Bob Picozzi & Tarik Turner)/Fox Sports GO (Where Available)/WEEI 103.7 FM and Friars.com (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)/FriarTV

Game Notes

  • Providence and Houston Baptist will meet for the first time ever on Friday night. This will only be the second time Providence has played an opponent from the Southland Conference in school history with the other coming in 1991 at the Maui Invitational when the Friars played Lamar.
  • Last time Providence played at the Alumni Hall was March 1, 1972 against St. John’s. Alumni Hall was the home of the Friars from 1955 through 1972 before the Providence Civic Center, now the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, opened for the 1972-73 season. Providence’s record at Alumni Hall is 178-29.
  • Providence is 79-11 all-time in regular season opening games, including an 82-8 record in home openers. This will be the 17th time in the last 18 seasons that Providence has opened at home. The last time they didn’t open at home was when they played Temple in Puerto Rico in November 2007. The Friars have won 14 of the last 15 openers with the only loss coming in November 2008 against Northeastern in Keno Davis’ first season.
  • Houston Baptist is coming off a 17-14 season that ended with a berth in the CIT. The Huskies are coached by Ron Cottrell who is in his 27th season at HBU. Senior center Josh Ibarra is the leading returning scorer and rebounder from last year’s team and Ibarra was named to the Southland Conference preseason All-Second Team. HBU was picked 9th out of 13 teams in the Southland Conference.
  • Providence enters the 2017-18 season coming off their fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and fifth straight season playing postseason basketball. The NCAA Tournament streak is the longest one in school history. The postseason streak is the 3rd-longest in school history behind the 8 season streak from the 1970-71 season through the 1977-78 season and the school-record 9 season streak from 1958-59 through 1966-67. Overall, Providence has now made 19 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and 19 appearances in the NIT.
  • The Friars defeated UConn, 90-76, in their first time out this season when the two teams met at Mohegan Sun Arena for a hurricane benefit exhibition game that raised $75,000 for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Providence followed that up with a tough loss to perennial Canadian national champion Carleton on October 28th at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. They closed out the exhibition slate by defeating Division III Baruch Bearcats, 83-53, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on November 4th.

Game Preview

Providence and Houston Baptist tip off the 2017-18 college basketball season on Friday night on Providence’s campus, which will be the first time the Friars have played a regular season game at Alumni Hall in more than 45 years. The Friars and Huskies are meeting as part of the 2017 2K Classic, which includes two campus site games for the Friars and two games at Madison Square Garden next week. Providence’s other campus site opponent is Belmont and the Friars open the MSG portion against Washington on November 16th. Much has been written and said about the 2017-18, but now that it’s here I think everyone is ready to just throw the ball up and get underway.

Houston Baptist lost 3 starters from last year’s successful 17-14 team that ended with a berth in the CIT. But the Huskies brought in 9 newcomers and return 2nd team All-Southland performer and 6’11 senior Josh Ibarra. Ibarra, as Chris Grenham and I both noted on the preview podcast that is up now on iTunes, does the majority of his damage on the offensive glass and from the left block. When Ibarra gets the ball on that left block his go-to move is one or two dribbles towards the middle of the lane and a right-handed hook or jump hook shot. Ibarra presents a legitimate test for Providence’s young big men, Kalif Young, Nate Watson and Dajour Dickens. I expect all three to see minutes in this game, with the exact quantity largely depending on the score and foul trouble. The Huskies also have 6’10, 245 pound junior college transfer Edward Hardt available off the bench.

The other returning starter is junior guard Braxton Bonds. He’s a friend and high school teammate of Jalen Lindsey. Bonds mainly excels in transition with the ball in his hands and can be dangerous with igniting transition off a steal. Bonds was 80th nationally a season ago in Steal %, per Kenpom.com.

Speaking of Lindsey, the senior wing is a game-time decision and I’d be surprised if he ends up playing in this game. The other Friar who missed some practice recently only to return to the practice court on Wednesday is Drew Edwards. Edwards had been dealing with back spasms, but it sounds like he’s over them and is likely to see some minutes off the bench for Ed Cooley on Friday night.

Listen to the season preview podcast:

The probable starters according to the game notes are:

Providence
Houston Baptist

The keys to victory for Providence are to keep Ibarra and the Huskies off the offensive glass and take care of the ball to limit easy transition buckets by Bonds and the rest of the HBU team. It’s not a stretch to say that Providence is easily more talented than a team picked 9th in the 28th ranked conference in college basketball. So the real key to victory for the Friars is to just show up and play their game. It will be a nice early test for the young big men to deal with a solid senior big man in Ibarra and I expect to see Alpha Diallo lead the way in the scoring column. Look for Kyron Cartwright to dish out 7 or so assists and play with Makai Ashton-Langford for stretches while Cooley rotates in offense/defense roles players Maliek White and Edwards.

Prediction: Providence 80 Houston Baptist 65

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