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Providence flying high entering game against DePaul

Sportsnaut
Providence College men's basketball coach Ed Cooley gestures to his players from the sideline during the game against the University of New Hampshire Nov. 18 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.Cooley
Providence College men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley gestures to his players from the sideline during the game against the University of New Hampshire Nov. 18 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.Cooley

Noah Horchler netted his fifth double-double of the season, nailing a career-best five 3-pointers Wednesday as No. 21 Providence edged visiting No. 15 Seton Hall.

Horchler’s parents looked on from the stands at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, leaving Friars coach Ed Cooley hinting that they might have to tag along for Saturday’s Big East matinee at DePaul in Chicago.

“We may be putting them on a jet every game,” Cooley said after Horchler contributed 17 points to go with 13 rebounds. “Not just his shooting — his defense and rebounding.”

Providence (12-1, 2-0 Big East) netted its seventh straight win on Wednesday, benefiting from a balanced offense that produced a quintet of double-figure scorers.

With 14 points, Nate Watson was among them, and he became the 18th player in program history to eclipse 1,500 career points.

The milestone wasn’t without its drama, however, as Watson worked through soreness in his right knee after landing awkwardly following a shot attempt in the first half.

“Hopefully, we get some good news,” Cooley said. “He gutted it through. He’s a tough kid — wants to play. But he’s definitely hobbling right now.”

The Friars were up by nine at halftime and limited the Pirates to 39.4 percent shooting for the game.

“We have a veteran group,” Cooley said. “We demand excellence and hold them accountable. You can go into every game expecting to win when you have an older group.”

Playing for the first time since Dec. 14, DePaul fell behind by 12 points in the second half of Wednesday’s conference opener at Butler before nearly rallying back.

The Bulldogs swished three late free throws to clinch a 63-59 victory. The Blue Demons (9-2, 0-1 Big East) have fallen short in their league opener in seven successive seasons, and first-year coach Tony Stubblefield was adamant he won’t spend too much time focusing on the team’s resilience at Butler.

DePaul practiced once between its Dec. 14 game and Wednesday as the program encountered COVID-19 concerns.

“I’m not into moral encouragement,” Stubblefield said. “You either win the game or lose the game at this level. This is the Big East. This is big-boy basketball.”

Brandon Johnson had a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds for DePaul. Leading scorer Javon Freeman-Liberty was limited to 13 points on 4-for-16 shooting. The team was without second-leading scorer David Jones, who remains in COVID protocols.

A chance at a would-be, game-tying three-pointer in the waning seconds went for naught as DePaul committed its 21st turnover on an inbounds pass.

“We have a certain number of turnovers that we are trying to limit this to,” Stubblefield said. “When you go on the road or even at home and you turn the ball over 21 times, you are not giving yourself the chance to win basketball games.”

Providence leads the all-time series with DePaul 34-13. The Blue Demons avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Friars last season by earning a 70-62 win in the first round of the Big East tournament.

–Field Level Media