It was only an exhibition, but boy did the Providence Friars make the most of their first game against the UConn Huskies since 2013.
Ed Cooley’s team pounded the UConn Huskies, 90 to 76, at Mohegan Sun despite playing without forward Jalen Lindsey, big man Emmitt Holt and guard Maliek White. Isaiah Jackson led the team in scoring with 16 points on 4-of-4 shooting, while Rodney Bullock put up 15 points, Kyron Cartwright dropped 15 and dished out five assists and Alpha Diallo added 15 points and seven rebounds.
This obviously won’t count towards either team’s record — UConn certainly is thankful for that — but it only fuels more Providence hype.
After playing without any seniors last season, the Friars have Holt, Bullock, Cartwright and Lindsey back for their final campaigns, while other rotation players like Diallo, Kalif Young, Jackson, White and Drew Edwards have more experience in the team’s system.
The Friars can go 10 or 11 deep, mixing-and-matching lineups due to their versatility and flexibility. Their defense is always stout and they are known to play with fire and intensity under Cooley, but this year their offense will be improved.
Cartwright will run the show for the second straight year and he will have a plethora of options to turn too. In addition to Cartwright’s ability to get to the hoop and his improving jump shot, Diallo is headed for a breakout campaign (he looked excellent shooting the ball on Wednesday night), Bullock is a consistent inside-outside threat and Lindsey and Holt are experienced talents.
Even the freshmen — Makai Ashton-Langford, Nate Watson and Dajour Dickens — have potential to be big pieces for this Friars team. Ashton-Langford, a four-star talent and the team’s prized recruit, has a fearlessness to his game as he can attack the rim and finish amongst the trees. Watson is a bruising big man who has a solid post game and Dickens, while very raw, is a true seven-footer, something Providence hasn’t had since Paschal Chukwu transferred.
The Friars have the experience, depth, toughness, versatility and the coaching. And that sets them up for another top-half finish in the Big East and a fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance under Cooley.