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#15 Providence looks to keep winning at St. John’s

Friars seeking sixth straight victory Tuesday night

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Providence Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch #15 Providence at St. John’s

Time: 9:00 p.m. ET

TV: CBS Sports Network

When the Providence Friars (18-2, 8-1) defeated Marquette on Sunday, they also ended the longest active winning streak in the Big East and took that title for themselves. They’ll be trying to extend the streak to seven wins on short rest Tuesday night in Queens. The St. John’s Red Storm (11-8, 3-5) will be looking to play spoiler and put an end to a streak that started against them four weeks prior.

The Red Storm were in position to hand the Friars their second consecutive loss, when Providence and St. John’s met at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Then, Nate Watson took over. He scored 16 points as Providence got behind Mike Anderson’s press and attacked the paint. They would outscore St. John’s 42-25 over the final 16 minutes of the game and pull away with a 10-point victory. Watson finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

For the Friars to win on Tuesday night, they’ll need to avoid the mistakes that the Red Storm are so intent on creating. Led by Posh Alexander, their defense thrives on big plays, ranking in the top 20 on KenPom in defensive block and steal percentages. Once St. John’s gets the ball away from you, they’ll push the pedal to the floor. Fourth in tempo in the country, the Red Storm will play fast and capitalize on your mistakes quickly.

Providence was victimized by Mike Anderson’s attacking defense at Carnesecca Arena in 2020. The Red Storm forced turnovers on more than 30 percent of Providence’s possessions, totaling 23 on the game, in a late weeknight game. Only two players - A.J. Reeves and Nate Watson - remain on either team’s roster from that game, but St. John’s will be trying to make those two Friars feel a strong sense of deja vu.

On offense, Ed Cooley will turn to a familiar game plan: feed the big man. Nate Watson averages 15.6 points against St. John’s, four more than he scores against any other Big East opponent. His career high of 30 points came against the Red Storm last season. If Providence can protect the ball, they’ll find opportunities to get Watson the ball close to the basket.

Watson had his first scoreless game since his freshman year last week. He bounced back against a Marquette team that plays with a similar style and pace to St. John’s on Sunday. Watson led all scorers with 17 points, including a thundering dunk with Golden Eagles hanging off of him in the final minute. That score proved to be the winning one.

The Red Storm have an offensive star of their own, however. Julian Champagnie, last year’s Most Improved Player in the Big East, is the frontrunner for Player of the Year in his junior season. Champagnie is a dynamic presence who leads the team in scoring and rebounding while being second in the conference in steals per game. Only teammate Posh Alexander steals the ball more.

Champagnie had one of his worst games of the season against the Friars thanks in large part to this week’s Player of the Week: Justin Minaya. The South Carolina transfer turned heads this week after slowing down Justin Lewis, Champagnie’s main competitor for Player of the Year. Ed Cooley uses him to take his opponent’s best player out of the game, as he did on late game stops for the Friars twice this past week.

Minaya leads a Providence defense that wants to chew you up and grind you out. While St. John’s is built on splashy playmaking, the Friars will play tough and clean defense for the full shot clock. Their unit is solid and consistent, built on strong on-ball defense and even stronger communication. The Friars have allowed only 66 points per game in conference play, 2nd best in the Big East, and have given up 62, 62, and 63 points in their last three showings.

While Providence and St. John’s play defense in very different styles, both are teams that rely on that unit as a catalyst. Tuesday night will be determined by which team’s defense can set the tone. Ed Cooley is hoping his team’s veteran experience gives their defense the edge needed to avoid another late weeknight slip-up in Queens.