Providence Friars 80 (1-0)
Fairfield Stags 73 (0-1)
Damn, it feels good to be back. Back with College Basketball. Back with the Friars. Back at The Dunk. Back with fans in the stands and BACK in the win column for the Providence Friars.
As was the story from last year’s opener against Fairfield at home, the Friars opened the game extremely slowly and allowed the Stags to score way to easily before finally settling things down in the second half to pull away for the win. The Stags returned their starting five from last year’s squad and almost their entire bench as well. In the early games of the season, that continuity of playing together could pay dividends in Fairfield improving from a dismal 2020-2021 basketball season.
As expected, Nate Watson led all scorers with 22 points and looks to be primed to repeat his offensive dominance from last season. Four players finished in double figures with Al Durham (18), A.J. Reeves (13), and Noah Horchler (10) rounding out the leading scorers for Providence.
- In case you forgot, Nate Watson is back for a 5th year, and he’s going to let everybody know about it.
- Nate could not be stopped on the offensive end, shooting 10 of 14 for a game-high 22 points. Watson added 6 rebounds and a steal to cap off his night.
- Nate’s midrange jumper looked silky as hell as he was draining 15-footers without even touching the rim.
- Big Nate also had 4 blocks on the night and none were bigger than this super swat.
- The four blocks matched a career-high for the Big Man that he has reached twice in his time at PC before (DePaul last year and Xavier his Freshman season).
- Noah Horchler notched his first double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Noah had only 1 double-double all of last season.
- Horchler crushed the high/low game with his quick and precise entry passes down low to set up Watson with easy finishes around the rim. He accounted for 3 assists on the night, matching his season high from last year. I would love to see more of this from Noah this season since he only had 14 total assists all of last year.
- He looks like he still has that long range shot working for him, going 2-4 from three after shooting 41.9% from deep last season.
- Sidenote, I didn’t realize Noah’s lettuce could look better than last year but here we are. Dude looks like a viking about to ravage the countryside.
- Al Durham looked extremely comfortable out there and looks so smooth when leading the break. His length really helps him get the ball out in front and he’s able to finish at the rim very well. I’m pretty much already in love with his overall game.
- Durham, who was a 1,000 point scorer at Indiana, did most of his damage at the line, going 9/12. His 12 free throw attempts matched a career-high for the 5th year transfer.
- Durham finished with 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists.
- Justin Minaya looks like he was made to play at Providence. It appears like he is going to be the super sub/glue guy for the Friars off the bench and will be a stat-filler across the board. He finished with 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and a partridge in a pear tree. You can feel his presence whenever he’s on the floor because he shows up literally everywhere you look.
- I’m not so keen on Minaya launching so many quick threes but maybe he was trying to help everyone else’s rebounding statistics or something. Great teammate right there. He went 0-4 from three after shooting just 23.3% last year from distance (26.4% the year before and 13.3% the year before that). I’m hoping that he was just caught up with that first game energy and got carried away because that’s definitely not his strong suit.
- A.J. Reeves was another guy who did most of his work from the charity stripe, going 6/7 en route to 13 points. Reeves’ three-point attempts seemed to come of the highly contested variety which isn’t ideal and resulted in a 1/5 night from deep. It does look like Reeves is putting in the effort to get to the hoop more often this season which I’m all for to open up his game.
- You can definitely tell that Reeves has thinned out his frame for this season.
- Alyn Breed played a lot less minutes than I was expecting but Durham did look very good as another ball handler for the Friars. Breed did chip in 2 assists in his limited action without committing a turnover but also got beat badly on a backdoor cut that resulted in an And-1.
- Another guy with a noticeably more fit look is Ed Croswell who looked pretty scary mixing things up with some of the Stags.
- Jared Bynum looked solid with 8 points and 4 assists.
- Fairfield’s offense already looks much better than last year where they finished near the bottom of most categories in all of college basketball, including 320th in effective field goal percentage and 211th in turnover percentage.
- The Stags look like they may have a stud in Freshman T.J. Long who played with a little bit of swagger for this being his first collegiate basketball game.
- Supreme Cook, one of the best names in all of basketball, gets definite kudos for his insane alley-oop finish from an inbounds pass with 1 second on the shot clock.
Next Up, the Friars stay at home at The Dunk to take on Sacred Heart on Thursday at 6:30 PM on Fox Sports 1.