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NCAAB: Providence leaning on transfers to prep for Big East slate

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Providence coach Ed Cooley set up his first two non-conference games in an interesting way to ready his team for Big East play.

After opening with a victory over Fairfield, which plays at a slow pace under coach Jay Young, a Steve Pikiell disciple, the Friars will host Sacred Heart (1-0). The Pioneers are more up-tempo under ninth-year coach Anthony Latina and use a lot of four-guard sets.

Sacred Heart should help the Friars get ready for perimeter-oriented teams such as Creighton and Villanova. The Pioneers made 7.9 threes per game in 2020-21 and were 11-for-31 from long distance in an 86-81 overtime win over La Salle on Tuesday.

Providence’s 80-73 win over Fairfield was unusually high scoring by the visiting Stags’ standards, mainly because, in the first half, Fairfield shot 51.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from long distance. Cooley wasn’t happy with his team’s performance.

“We were fortunate to win,” he said afterward. “We made a lot of mistakes against a really determined basketball team. We didn’t play the way I wanted to play. I’m happy about the win. I’m not happy about our execution. I’m not happy about our toughness. I’m not happy about our shot selection. I’m not happy about our approach to the game. We’re a work in progress.”

With do-everything guard David Duke gone, big man Nate Watson (22 points Tuesday) and Indiana transfer Al Durham (18 points) provided the bulk of the Friars’ offense as they held off Fairfield.

Although he shot 2-for-11 from three-point range, Tyler Thomas had a double-double for Sacred Heart with 24 points and 11 rebounds in its win over the Explorers.

Sacred Heart reached the semifinals of the Northeast Conference tournament last season but was picked sixth in the preseason coaches’ poll despite returning all five starters.

“In terms of our predicted finish, our goal is to always be towards the top of the league, which we have done the last three years,” Latina said. “The good news is the coaches haven’t been accurate at predicting where Sacred Heart finishes. Let’s hope that trend continues.”

Thomas (19.1 points last season) made the preseason All-NEC first team.

–Field Level Media

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