Coach Cooley was livid. By the time he had called the game’s first time out, just 1:16 into the contest, he was halfway onto the court, arms raised above his head in disbelief.
Wagner College jumped out to an early 5-3 lead, after Corey Henson traded threes with Kyron Cartwright. An effortless Elijah Davis layup, courtesy of lackadaisical fast-break defense ensued. For that brief moment, each one of the 4,089 fans in attendance, that braved this oh-so stereotypical mid-December wintery mix, sensed that this game could very well have turned into 40 minutes of torture.
The Friars hadn’t played a contest in a full week after handling the UMass Minuteman last Saturday. Their week off, accompanied by final exams, culminated in what was a sloppy and heartless opening minute for the Black and White.
What elevates Coach Cooley’s reputation amongst his peers in the college basketball community is his ability to drive results through emotion. His student-athletes feed off of his passion, energy and charisma. Fans can only speculate what was discussed in that uncharacteristically early timeout but whatever it was, the Friars responded.
The Seahawks managed just two more baskets, extending their lead to 10-4. From that point forward, the Wagner’s afternoon went to spoil.
PC dominated on both sides of the floor. Highlighted by Alpha Diallo’s smooth offensive prowess, the Friars put together a soul-crushing 31-0 scoring run, while holding Wagner without a basket for twelve minutes and forty-seven seconds.
Freshman forward Alpha Diallo, was the catalyst of the monumental scoring run. For most of non-conference play, Diallo has logged quality minutes off of the bench, as his role continues to develop. PC’s sneaky depth has certainly muddied the waters for a handful of players; especially those at the combo-guard/forward positions (Diallo, Ryan Fazekas, Isaiah Jackson and Drew Edwards). Diallo, a late addition to Cooley’s freshman class, was rated as the #96 high school player in the nation by ESPN.com. Built with an ideal frame and boasting a smooth and versatile offensive game, Diallo was pegged to make an early impact on this youthful Friars squad. Saturday, Diallo flaunted aspects of his game. In just two and a half minutes, Alpha got nothing but net on a 15-foot jumper from the wing, elevated for a highlight reel alley-oop from Cartwright and buried a deep three from in front of the Wagner bench. Showing a nose for the ball, Diallo padded his line with three rebounds and a career high four steals to go with 9 points.
The Friars ran into an extremely competitive Wagner College team, who managed to pull off a convincing 67-58 win over the #18 UConn Huskies back in October. Led by junior guard Romone Saunders, the Seahawks earned their first win over a ranked opponent since topping Pittsburgh in 2011. To Wagner’s dismay, Saunders broke his foot in that game and has incurred numerous other injuries to key players. Romone Saunders has missed 8 games, Jamar Brown – 7, Marquis Salmon – 4 and Corey Henson – 1. Henson was the only aforementioned player to appear against the Friars.
Although the final score of 76-54 suggests otherwise, the Seahawks didn’t go down without a fight. Wagner out-rebounded PC 44-33 and managed to grab 20 offensive rebounds to Providence’s nine. This is a startling statistic for an undersized Friars squad that may have trouble against big and physical Big East opponents. Without Saunders, their most dynamic guard, the Seahawks turned the ball over an astounding 20 times, leading to 20 points off of turnovers for the Friars.
Wagner welcomed back Mike Aaman, their 6’8, 260lb senior center, who missed their last game due to a death in the family. This may be a familiar name to many Friars fans, as Aaman transferred to Wagner from the University of Rhode Island. A native of New Jersey, Aaman committed to play for Coach Dan Hurley at Wagner before the accepted the position at URI. The center recommitted and followed Hurley to URI before withdrawing from school for personal reasons. Feeling a sense of comfort at Wagner, Aaman is now featured as one of their top big men. Possessing double-double potential, Aaman logged 15 minutes off of the bench in an effort to combat the presence of Rodney Bullock (8 points, 9 boards) and Emmitt Holt (11 points, 4 boards) in the paint.
Maturation and Depth:
Kyron Cartwright entered today’s contest 5th in the nation in assists; 7.7 assists per game. For the third time this season, the Compton, California, native managed double-digit assists, while logging 11. Cartwright is undoubtedly one of the quickest point guards to play for the Friars in recent memory. The Friars have played well in transition, an aspect of their game that they have struggled with in past seasons. PC’s up-tempo offense resulted in 14 fast break points to Wagner’s two.
Yet again, Jalen Lindsey was the unsung hero of the contest, leading all scorers with 16 points in just 24 minutes of action, along with 8 rebounds. Jalen was 4-5 from the floor while knocking down 3-4 three points attempts. Lindsey’s overall development and maturation has been one of the most notable side-stories for the Friars throughout their non-conference play. Not only has he developed into Coach Cooley’s top on-ball defender, but his offensive game has expanded two-fold. You can find Jalen fighting in the paint for offensive rebounds and put-backs. The days of Jalen hanging around the three-point arc are in the rearview mirror.
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The Friars (9-2, 8-0 home) welcome the University of Maine Black Bears (4-6, 2-3 away) to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Tuesday December 20th at 8:30 PM. It will be the 13th meeting between the two programs. The Friars have an 11-1 series advantage.