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Providence stifles Fairleigh Dickinson in 69-59 victory

The Friars improve to 5-2 on the season with their victory over the Knights.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament Championship-Villanova vs Providence Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Providence Friars are winners again.

After defeating the Iona Gaels on Saturday, the Friars returned to The Dunk to host the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights on Tuesday. After 40 minutes of action, Providence etched another tally in the win column, earning a 69-59 victory over FDU.

It was truly a tale of two halves for the Friars. In the first half, Providence scored just 30 points on 35 possessions, good for a mark of just 0.857 points/possession. That number skyrocketed in the second half, as they scored 39 points on 35 possessions, good for 1.114 points/possession. It also helped largely that they cut their TO% down from 25.7 percent in the first half to just 11.4 percent in the second.

Those factors coupled with FDU’s struggles from the field equaled a victory for the Friars on Tuesday night.

Alpha Diallo was the man again for the Friars. The Preseason All-Big East First Team selection scored a game-high 20 points in their victory. It’s the third time this season he’s hit the 20-point threshold, having done so against Iona and the Wichita State Shockers back on November 9. Diallo shot 8-for-14 from the field, marking the fifth time this season that he’s shot at least 50 percent. He also added nine rebounds, two assists and two steals while committing just two turnovers in 35 minutes.

Diallo was one of three Friars to hit double figures in this game. He joined Nate Watson and Isaiah Jackson, who also got into double figures against the Gaels this past Saturday. Watson put up 10 off the bench and Jackson scored 11 off the bench, as well.

The two are proving to be strong commodities off the bench in the early goings, and this kind of impact can go a long way. Watson also added seven rebounds while Jackson had five, and also picked up four assists as well. They combined for just three turnovers in their time on the floor, and the Friars had just 13 on the night, keeping their TO% to just 18.6 percent.

Perhaps a mark of concern was the fact that Providence couldn’t put up big numbers from 3-point land. FDU ranks as one of the worst 3-point defenses in the nation. Despite that, Providence was woeful from outside, going just 3-for-13 from beyond the arc. Three players made those three shots, as Diallo, Jackson and A.J. Reeves were responsible for those made shots. But apart from that? A bad effort to be sure from a team that has actually been stout from the perimeter.

The Friars couldn’t particularly hold them down, either. The Knights went 9-for-24 from the perimeter, which means their allowed 3-point percentage now sits at 37.4. This continues to be a struggle for Providence and one that will have to be shored up. Given that Ed Cooley’s teams typically do well in defending the perimeter, they’re probably in good shape. But it’s still something to watch.

What is also worth noting is the fact that Makai Ashton-Langford got quite a bit of burn. The sophomore has struggled to be on the floor for long periods of time this season. His longest outing so far was 12 minutes in the opener against the Siena Saints. But on Tuesday, Ashton-Langford played 21 minutes. He scored six points, picked up a rebound, racked up two blocks and two steals and dished out three assists. He filled up the statsheet and made the most of his time on the floor. That’s a job well done for him.

We saw a lot of Darnell Edge as expected, but the star of the Knights scored just nine points and shot just 4-for-12 from the field in 36 minutes of action. He picked up six assists but his usual points production was stifled. The team leader in points was Xzavier Malone, who racked up 16 points on the night while shooting 6-for-9 from the floor. Jahlil Jenkins added 12 points and Mike Holloway Jr. had nine. The Knights had just eight bench points from Kaleb Bishop (6) and Tyler Jones (2). Elyjah Williams had five points in 28 minutes.

The next time we see the Friars will be on Saturday. Providence will be hosting the Rhode Island Rams in their annual tilt in Friartown. Providence has won eight of the last 10 matchups against Rhody, and 11 of the last 17.