PROVIDENCE – If he had adapted Tuesday night, would AJ Reeves have been able to make up for the 32 points that the Providence brothers absorbed by Marquette?
The quick answer is absolutely not. Reeves averaged 11.2 points per game before injuring a finger on his non-pulling hand in PC’s victory over DePaul on New Years Day.
Could Reeves score more per game? The talent and ability is certainly there, but let’s remember that Ed Cooley’s attacking plan is designed to allow the five players on the pitch to potentially have an impact.
Take a look at Nate Watson’s season so far. There are probably those who thought the fifth-year elder would come out and dominate in a way that resulted in a series of production points that would put him in contention for the Big East and national honors.
Watson will keep an average of 13.5 in Saturday’s noon game at Dunkin ‘Donuts Center against St. John’s, a mark of less than three points from the previous season.
Before reading too much about the drop-off, let’s get back to the point about the offense under Cooley.
Yes, there have been some Friar teams that showcased scoring stars where it was absolutely imperative for them to put the ball in the basket – Bryce Cotton and Ben Bentil remain the only Cooley-era PC players to average over 20 points in a single season – but balanced scoring has long been a desired trait under the coach.
Translation: The sun doesn’t rise and set with Watson’s performance. Including Reeves, the Friars have five players who average between 8 and 13 points. From Watson and Reeves to Noah Horchler, Al Durham and Jared Bynum, the Friars have taken advantage of five different top scorers in the first 15 games of the season.
Thinking back to Marquette’s game, there’s no doubt that floor spacing was a major issue for the Brothers. Not having Reeves meant the Golden Eagles were free to keep Watson while deploying a secondary defenseman who acted as free pseudo security.
It’s an approach that was used when PC faced Texas Tech in early December with the Red Raiders holding Watson to a single basket over four attempts.
Luge proved to be just as difficult for Watson as a Marquette team limited him to 4 of 11 shots. If Reeves had been there, it is conceivable that Watson could have feasted a little more on the young frontline deployed by the Golden Eagles.
Reeves’ absence also took its toll on Horchler, who finished with more turnovers (three) than field goals (one). One night the Brothers desperately needed Horchler to replicate the outward firepower Reeves typically provides, the Brother who came in to shoot 45% beyond the arc ended up attempting a single 3-point pointer.
“When he shoots the ball the way he’s been, everyone will be paying attention to him,” Cooley said when asked about Horchler after Marquette’s game. “I hope he learns from that and that we learn as a group as we move on to the next game.
“Not having (Reeves) on the ground as a sniper really hurts and is clearly seen in some of the open looks that we’ve been missing. Normally he knocks down a couple of,” Cooley added. once it’s an opportunity for someone else to step up and contribute to the brothers who are trying to win. “
In the meantime, as Reeves recovers from his finger injury, it’s up to Horchler to reclaim the shooter that results in better ground spacing that would in turn benefit Watson, Durham, and more. So far this season, Horchler has posted seven games where he has scored two 3s or more.
According to Hoop-Math.com, 100% of the three made by Horchler this season had assists. This means that Durham or Bynum (or Watson if he’s a two-team) must play an important role in helping to create opportunities for a player Friar who in turn must ensure he takes a page of arguably l most important ingredient that Reeves brings to the table of Providence.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @ BWMcGair03