Providence and Rhode Island are not where they want to be in the course of a long basketball season, but a rivalry win could be just what the doctor ordered.
The in-state foes will meet for the 134th time when they clash on Saturday in Kingston, R.I.
“We’ve got a couple of desperate teams,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “We’re coming off a really, really hard loss, and we’ve got a hard game to prepare for.”
Cooley’s Friars (5-3) seek their first road win after falling 75-62 at TCU on Wednesday.
While returning All-Big East guard Jared Bynum was held to a single basket, sophomores Bryce Hopkins and Devin Carter each scored 17 points against the Horned Frogs. Hopkins averages a team-leading 14.6 points per game and Carter is second with 11.3 per contest.
Providence’s other two losses came on a neutral court in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
“We’ll have a chance to make some games up (in the Big East),” Cooley said. “We don’t want to lose games like this, but … we’re going to learn from all of our games. This is just another one to learn from.”
The Rams (2-5) have not played since Sunday’s 53-49 loss at Boston College, their third loss in four games.
George Washington sophomore transfer Brayon Freeman has scored a career-high 21 points in consecutive games.
Freeman spent a night on the bench after scoring just four points combined in Rhode Island’s first two games.
“He’s got a lot of fight in him,” Rams coach Archie Miller said. “There are a lot of guys who want to go away and hide when things aren’t off to a good start. He didn’t do that.”
Ishmael Leggett (18.3) and Freeman (12.5) average double-digit points per game for Rhode Island.
Friends Miller and Cooley were both assistant coaches with the 2015 Team USA U-19 team that included Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum.
Although Miller is in his first year as the Rams’ coach, he knows what the rivalry is about.
“PC-URI is built over decades of tough kids playing,” Miller said. “I just want our game to honor that and I know it will.”
Cooley is 8-2 against Rhody as the Friars’ coach, but both losses have come at the Ryan Center.
“The old adage that records don’t matter … it’s so close all the time,” Cooley said. “The energy that’s in the building is second to none.”
–Field Level Media