The top half of the Big East is growing very crowded and No. 20 Providence is among the teams in position to claim the regular-season title.
One of four teams with double-digit conference wins, the Friars (18-6, 10-3 Big East) look to boost their chances for the regular-season crown Saturday afternoon when they head to New York to face struggling St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.
Providence has won four of its last five, including Wednesday’s 74-62 home win against Georgetown in which it led the Hoyas by as many as 17 points.
“I was proud of how we came out and how we finished,” Friars coach Ed Cooley said. “Our players continue to get better and better.”
Among the things Cooley can be pleased about is Bryce Hopkins scoring 17 points after shooting 3-for-14 in a Feb. 1 loss at Xavier. Devin Carter finished with 12 points to reach double figures for the 12th straight contest, adding nine rebounds and seven assists. Ed Croswell had 12 points.
Providence also is coming off one of its better defensive showings. After allowing its second-most points in the 85-83 overtime setback at Xavier, the Friars gave up fewer than 70 for the 13th time this season and remained unbeaten when doing so.
Providence limited Georgetown to 20 percent shooting (3 of 15) from 3-point range.
Hopkins leads the Friars with 16.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
The Friars are seeking a season sweep of the Red Storm. They earned a hard-fought 83-80 home win Jan. 7 when Noah Locke hit five 3-pointers and scored 20 points while the Friars shot 50.9 percent. Joel Soriano led five St. John’s players in double figures with 16 points and added 10 rebounds.
St. Johns (14-11, 4-10) shot 49.2 percent in the first meeting but has only cracked 80 points in one of eight contests since that loss to Providence.
The Red Storm are on a three-game losing streak and have dropped five of their last six.
The latest setback was Tuesday’s 68-66 loss at Butler when the Red Storm did not score in the final 3:50, scored just 25 points after halftime and reached the foul line six times while allowing 21 free throws.
Posh Alexander scored a season-high 17 points and Rafael Pinzon added 14. Soriano added 12 and 11 rebounds but had a game-tying shot waved off. Soriano is shooting just 30.8 percent (12 of 39) from the field in his past four games.
“We had some opportunities,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought it was a very physical game. We attacked the basket, and we thought we would be rewarded.”
Soriano paces the Red Storm with 15.4 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.
Providence has won the last three meetings, including an 86-82 win in Queens, N.Y. on Feb. 1, 2022.
–Field Level Media