Fueled by the return of Alpha Diallo (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Kyron Cartwright (game-high 21 points and 15 (!) assists), the Providence Friars earned a decisive 94-72 road victory over the St. John's Red Storm in their Big East opener.
The Friars shot 16-of-30 from beyond the arc (including 11-of-16 over the final 20 minutes) to blow open what had actually been a one-point game with 15 minutes to play.
Ed Cooley had to be pleased that Rodney Bullock (20 points) finally had some help, as Jalen Lindsey also contributed 18 points on 6-10 shooting from 3.
In a losing effort, St. John's was led by Marvin Clark II (20 points) and, of course, do-everything guard Shamorie Ponds (16 points, six assists, four rebounds, three steals). However, with the absence of Marcus LoVett purveying (still out with the sprained knee), the Johnnies offense stagnated at the worst possible time. Namely, during the 24-6 Friar run midway through the second half that effectively put the game to bed.
More concerning for St. John's fans was the image of Ponds sitting on the bench during the game’s waning minutes with a wrap around his calf.
But for Providence, at the end of what has been a spotty December, the game signified an auspicious start to league play.
1. Age is Served: A key factor in Providence’s 2nd half success was the poise displayed by Providence’s elder statesmen (Seniors Bullock, Cartwright, and Lindsey). Been there, done that.
2. St. John’s was once again exposed by a zone defense: Unless Mullin sorts this out, the blueprint to handling St. John’s is there for any team with decent length and athleticism.
3. It’s funny how quickly “bracketologists” tend to dismiss teams based on early season struggles: Providence showed tonight that they should be competitive in league play and be in the mix for another NCAA berth come March.
Providence travels to Creighton on Sunday to take on the Bluejays. St. John’s visits Seton Hall the same day. Seton Hall opened league play earlier tonight with a comeback win over Creighton.