PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Texas head coach Shaka Smart described Providence as a team “with their backs against the wall. They had a desperation and an edge to them. You could see that.”
Told of Smart’s choice of words, Providence head coach Ed Cooley concurred with the assessment. Cooley needs no reminders about how difficult the sledding has been for the Friars during nonconference play. The Friars have suffered their fair share of head-scratching losses and hit a low point this past Tuesday night in a 32-point loss to Florida.
On Saturday, all the pieces finally clicked. Sparked by 14 points and 12 rebounds from Alpha Diallo, Providence ran past Texas 70-48 to notch an important victory with the start of Big East play right around the corner.
“I thought we had a great amount of urgency. That was a win we definitely needed,” said Cooley. “The early part of the season, we haven’t been the team we wanted to be. You’ve got to make sure you stay with the process and continue to talk about what we can be versus what we weren’t. You need to have a positive approach when you’re struggling and give your men incredible amounts of security and confidence that we are a good club.”
Defensively, the Friars (7-6) answered the bell by holding the Longhorns (9-2) to 29 % shooting in the second half and 32 % for the contest. Courtney Ramey led Texas with 12 points but was just 6-of-14 shooting from the field. Matt Coleman added 11 points. Remove those two from the equation and the rest of the Longhorns combined for just eight field goals on 33 attempts.
“Any time you shoot as poorly as we did, that’s the first place to start,” said Smart. “We played too much 1-on-1 today. You’ve got to move the basketball more. (Ramey and Coleman) got some baskets, but they’re guys who also create for their teammates.”
Luwane Pipkins finished with 14 points, six rebounds, and four assists for Providence. Nate Watson provided a spark off the bench with 10 points and seven rebounds. The Friars won the rebound battle going away (52-39) and scored 17 second-chance points off 16 offensive rebounds.
“We’ve got to do our jobs. For me, it’s rebounding, hustling, and outworking other guys,” said Friars’ senior Kalif Young, who had six points and 10 rebounds.
Providence grabbed its first double-digit lead at 10:27 of the first half as senior Maliek White (seven points) finished inside. The Longhorns jumped out to a 5-1 lead but ended up down 43-28 at halftime. Pipkins was the main offensive catalyst with four 3-pointers – one of which he was fouled on for a rare four-point opportunity.
The Longhorns never closed to within single digits in the second half. Providence’s biggest lead in the game was 22 points with 2:38 to play. Everyone who stepped on the floor for the Friars scored.
“We needed to win for a lot of reasons,” said Cooley. “I’m just happy about the attention to detail that our players showed.”
Texas: The Longhorns came into the game shooting 34 % from 3-point territory but managed to connect at a frosty 14 percent clip (3 for 21).
“If they shot the ball the right way and got a good shot, you want them to shoot it again. If it wasn’t as good of a shot, you’ve got to do something differently,” said Smart. “Obviously (Texas’ struggles from deep) impacted the game.”
Providence: Emmitt Holt made his fifth start of the season and the first since Dec. 6. Listed as a graduate student, Holt filled the stat sheet with six points, nine rebounds, and two steals in 23 minutes. He has missed most of the past two seasons after undergoing abdominal surgery in the fall of 2017.
“Emmitt and I had a conversation where we made sure he was healthy enough to be able to contribute at that level. Quite frankly, I was skeptical of that early on,” said Cooley. “He said ‘You’ve got to trust me and put me out there.’ Sometimes you have to listen to your players when they talk to you.”
The Friars started four seniors against Texas with a fifth (White) playing a key role off the bench. Cooley admitted that it’s been a while since PC featured a starting five that was heavy on players in their final season of college eligibility.
“These guys have been working their tails off and I’m proud of them,” said Cooley.
Saturday’s matchup was part of the newly-created Big East/Big 12 Battle. The win is the second in as many years for the Friars, who defeated Texas 71-65 last December. All-time, PC holds a 4-3 record against the Longhorns.
Texas: The Longhorns host High Point on Dec. 30 in their penultimate nonconference game.
Providence: Big East play tips off with a home game against Georgetown on New Year’s Eve.
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