PROVIDENCE — The degree of difficulty ramps up from here for Providence College.
Trips to TCU and the University of Rhode Island are up next following this two-game breather at the Amica Mutual Pavilion. The Friars dispatched Merrimack in relatively easy fashion on Wednesday night and took care of Columbia on Saturday afternoon.
Ed Cooley’s group is something shy of a well-oiled machine through seven games, but maximum efficiency wasn't required against the Lions. Providence played a strong final six minutes in the opening half and pulled away late in the second for a 78-64 triumph.
“We’re going to need a lot more than what we’re doing right now to compete in the Big East,” Cooley said. “If we think we’re going to come out with this lackluster energy over 40 minutes, we’re going to find ourselves in trouble. It’s something we can work on.”
More college basketball:PC coach Ed Cooley knows Friars still have work to do. Here's what he said.
The Friars dished out a season-high 21 assists and enjoyed a 33-13 advantage in points off the bench. Jayden Pierre matched Ed Croswell with a career-high 13 points in his reserve role and Alyn Breed added nine in just 12 minutes. Those two guards helped support Jared Bynum and his game-high eight assists in just 23 minutes.
“We’re ready to play as a collective,” Pierre said. “It just makes us better.”
Providence built a 19-point lead with 8:36 to play on a Bryce Hopkins 3-pointer from the left wing. The Friars enjoyed a 64-45 cushion and the 9,215 fans on hand could have headed for the exits without fear. Columbia’s two wins coming in were against Delaware State and SUNY-Maritime. There was no way back for them in this one.
What can Providence carry from this matchup into that Big East-Big 12 Battle date with the Horned Frogs? Let’s take a look.
Bynum is dishing out
Bynum had totaled 14 assists in his last two games.
Only once in his Friars career has he produced more in a two-game span— he had 16 in games against TCU and Seton Hall in December 2020, when he dished out eight apiece.
“He’s trying to learn a new role in which today I think he settled into,” Cooley said. “He needs to be a threat and he also needs to be a facilitator.”
Bynum was just 2-for-8 from the field and missed all five of his 3-point attempts. He’s been cold from the perimeter thus far — 17.9% after connecting at 41.3% in a breakout 2021-22. The preseason all-conference selection is a targeted man on opposing scouting reports and could use help from players like Pierre, Breed, Devin Carter and Noah Locke to find his rhythm outside.
“When you come in off the bench, you can kind of get a feel for the game,” Breed said. “You can see what’s going on. You can see things that some of the players and the team together need to pick up on.”
Freshman Pierre finding his groove
Pierre was a perfect 3-for-3 from deep while playing 22 minutes.
The freshman managed just two shot attempts in defeats last weekend against Miami and Saint Louis, as Providence went winless at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Pierre added two assists and didn’t commit a turnover against a defense that entered among the national bottom five in points allowed per possession, according to KenPom.com.
“The first couple of games it was a little bit of an adjustment,” Pierre said. “But now my coaches are giving me confidence. My teammates are giving me confidence.”
Pierre’s control of the offense allowed Cooley to rest Bynum over the final 12:01. Carter (right shoulder) was also held out over the last 10:43 and received treatment on the bench.
“His shoulder, it popped out,” Cooley said. “We’ll see. He’s a tough kid. He’ll be fine.”
Friars start slow, then find their footing
The Friars (5-2) were locked in a 20-20 tie with 6:01 left in the first half.
Providence opened 4-for-17 from the field and connected on just one of its first seven 3-point tries. The hosts were content to settle in against the zone defense deployed by the Lions (2-6).
“I have to definitely admit it’s been tough given you’re seeing so many different mistakes,” Cooley said. “That’s something we tried to work on today — my positive energy. Normally I am, but it’s been rough seeing what I’m seeing out there.
“It’s something I have to work on. I’m not just going to talk to the players. I have to talk to myself.”
The following 15-2 run gave the Friars some breathing room into halftime, and a similar burst ended the suspense for good midway through the second half. Breed’s jumper from the right elbow capped an 8-0 spurt and Providence had its lead into double figures for good.
On Twitter: @BillKoch25
COLUMBIA (64): Bedri 5-13 0-0 11, Odunowo 5-7 1-3 11, Thompson 1-8 6-6 8, Brown 2-10 0-0 4, De La Rosa 6-10 3-3 17, Noland 1-3 0-1 2, McLean 1-2 0-0 3, Tavroff 1-4 0-0 2, Stankard 2-4 0-0 6, Cooper 0-1 0-0 0; totals 24-62 10-13 64. PROVIDENCE (78): Croswell 5-7 3-4 13, Hopkins 3-9 0-0 7, Bynum 2-8 3-3 7, Carter 3-6 0-0 8, Locke 3-10 1-2 10, Moore 4-6 0-0 8, Pierre 5-8 0-0 13, Castro 1-5 1-2 3, Breed 4-6 0-0 9, Floyd 0-3 0-0 0; totals 30-68 8-11 78.
Halftime — Providence 38-28. 3-Point Goals — Columbia 6-18 (Stankard 2-3, De La Rosa 2-4, McLean 1-1, Bedri 1-2, Cooper 0-1, Noland 0-1, Brown 0-3, Thompson 0-3), Providence 10-28 (Pierre 3-3, Locke 3-9, Carter 2-3, Breed 1-2, Hopkins 1-2, Castro 0-2, Floyd 0-2, Bynum 0-5). Rebounds — Columbia 34 (De La Rosa 10), Providence 37 (Hopkins 7). Assists — Columbia 8 (De La Rosa 2), Providence 21 (Bynum 8). Total Fouls — Columbia 14, Providence 14. A — 9,215 (12,410).
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Providence basketball knows tougher tests lie ahead this week