Providence to continue learning curve vs. Merrimack

PC Coach Ed Cooley in second half against  St. John's

Ed Cooley

Providence will look to rebound from an 0-2 showing in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament when it hosts Merrimack on Wednesday night.

The Friars (3-2) faced their toughest challenges yet over the weekend, falling 74-64 to Miami on Saturday and 76-73 to Saint Louis on Sunday in the tournament at Uncasville, Conn.

Providence, which did not lose back-to-back games last season, led by as many as 13 points on Sunday and had a four-point edge with 1:48 remaining against the Billikens.

“It’s still a learning curve for us,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “It was one of the most demoralizing losses we’ve had in a long time, but it’s on to the next. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do to be the team we want to be moving forward.”

Sophomore forward Bryce Hopkins averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds over the two weekend games. He scored a career-high 20 vs. Saint Louis in his third game as the team’s top scorer.

Five Friars are double-figure scorers this season. Hopkins’ average of 16 points per game was good for eighth in the Big East entering play Tuesday.

Despite strong individual performances, Cooley hopes for an improved team game at home.

“Every team wins because of will, grit and effort,” he said. “You don’t need a lot of talent with all those things. … And, right now, our group is not there yet.”

Northeast Conference preseason favorite Merrimack (1-4) lost to Troy 73-54 on Thursday, host Montana 62-51 on Friday, and St. Thomas (Minn.) 72-61 on Saturday at the Grizzlies’ Zootown Classic. The Warriors played all three games without preseason All-NEC forward and top scorer Jordan Minor.

Senior Ziggy Reid averaged 16.0 points per game in the three contests, above his average of 12.6 on the season, and shot 53.6 percent during the tournament. He scored 22 points in the finale.

The Warriors already have played a Big East team in a 97-72 season-opening loss at St. John’s. Minor scored 19 points and freshman Jordan Derkack (10.4 points per game) added 15 points and eight rebounds.

“We’re old up front and kind of young in the backcourt,” Merrimack coach Joe Gallo said. “But they’re very talented. I think the league is going to like watching these young guys play.”

Wednesday will mark the third-ever meeting between the teams and the first since 2019. The two campuses are less than 90 minutes apart.

–Field Level Media

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