With a win over the Central Connecticut Blue Devils (2-7) this Saturday, Ed Cooley will head into conference play with only one loss for the second time as head coach of the Providence Friars (9-1). The last time that happened was in 2015, when the Kris Dunn-led Friars entered Big East play at 12-1 and ranked 12th in the AP top 25.
Standing in their way is Central Connecticut, a team that has offered little resistance to opponents this season. The Blue Devils lost their first five games, including a 99-48 defeat at the hands of UConn in their opener. Last time out, they fell to New Hampshire by 22 points, a team the Friars already defeated this season. To say the Blue Devils will be underdogs Saturday afternoon at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center would be an understatement.
However, Central Connecticut’s new head coach has some experience in defeating the Friars. Patrick Sellers, in his first season in the role for the Blue Devils, was an assistant in 1999 when they last beat Providence. That’s the last time the school defeated any Big East opponent.
It’s safe to say this year’s group in Providence is much better than the team they assembled at the turn of the millennium. Those Friars also lost to Holy Cross and Fordham in non-conference play on their way to an 11-19 record. With a victory on Saturday, the 2021-22 Friars will come just one win away from matching that team’s win total.
Providence enters Saturday with four players scoring in double-figures, all seniors. Leading the way are Nate Watson and Al Durham with 16 and 14 points respectively Watson, a fifth-year senior, has dominated opponents with his size all season, and Durham has steadied the offense with point guard Jared Bynum out with a leg injury. A transfer from Indiana, Durham has flashed his ability to create his own shot. He’s also played a pivotal role in finishing games for the Friars by hitting over 82 percent of his shots from the line.
Complementing those two are Noah Horchler and A.J. Reeves, both averaging a little more than 10 points per contest. Horchler has been a dominant rebounder, pulling down eight boards a game, and the two are among the most efficient perimeter shooters in the lineup.
That veteran leadership will be an asset as the team tries to avoid a letdown against the 347th best team on Kenpom. These Friars have their sights set high this season, but they can’t afford to overlook the Blue Devils.
How to Watch
Time: 2 p.m. ET
Streaming: FOX Sports Go