Date: Monday, November 22
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Line: Northwestern -1.5
The Providence Friars (4-0) and Northwestern Wildcats (4-0) square off Monday night at the Prudential Center in the Roman Legends Classic.
Ed Cooley’s defense faces a tough challenge from the Wildcats’ towering frontcourt duo. Pete Nance and Ryan Young, both standing at 6’10”, split time at center for Northwestern. Nance leads his team in scoring, averaging 18 points, and has not scored less than 13 points in a game this season. He’s recorded those numbers without ever playing more than 31 minutes in a game. Nance has played less than 20 minutes in half of Northwestern’s games.
His backup, Young, has two 20-point games. Against High Point, he shot 8-for-8 from the field and hit four free throws in 15 minutes of time. Young is the third highest scoring member of the team despite only playing 16 minutes per game.
Luckily for the Friars, they have a star of their own in the paint. Nate Watson was named to the preseason All-Big East First Team, and he has not disappointed. Watson scored 24 points against Wisconsin, Northwestern’s conference rival, last week, and had his sixth double-double the game before against Sacred Heart.
Northwestern’s offense is made more dangerous by the man who runs it. Boo Buie, a junior from Albany, leads the Big Ten in assists. The Wildcats have always dished the ball well under Chris Collins, and with Buie running the show on the floor, they sit in the top ten nationally in assists per game. They’ll have to contend with a strengthening Providence defense.
After allowing 73 points to Fairfield, the Friars have stiffened at their own end. In their last three games, Providence has allowed just 60 points per game. They held Wisconsin to 58 points and disrupted their rhythm. Ed Cooley likes to drag out each possession, clogging the paint and forcing you to beat him from the outside. How that defense matches up against a disciplined Northwestern attack with big men who can spread the floor will be the key factor in this one.
The last time Providence faced Northwestern, the Wildcats picked up a shocking win at home after losing to Merrimack days earlier. That night, Northwestern recorded assists on nearly three quarters of their baskets. They also turned the ball over 20 times and benefitted from Nate Watson missing the game due to a knee injury.
The Friars picked up their first win against a Big Ten opponent since 2015 last week, breaking a five-game losing streak. For the program to reach 1,500 wins, it will take a resurgent defense and the school’s second Big Ten win in just seven days.