Big East Baller Update No. 4: the waiting Game 

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Providence’s Al Durham (1) blocks a shot by Northwestern’s Ryan Greer (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, in Newark, N.J. Providence won 77-72. Photo by Frank Franklin II/AP Photo.

It was a mediocre week for the Big East. Some opponents provided incredible opportunities for teams to improve their gameplay while others showed how dominant they really are. In case you missed anything while watching the college football conference championship games, here are some of the highs from last week’s Big East slate. 

Player of the Week: Al Durham – Providence 

Freshman of the Week: Aminu Mohammed – Georgetown 

Texas Tech vs. Providence (Dec. 1): Rocking the Red Hoodie 

The stakes on this matchup would be higher if Chris Beard was still coaching the Red Raiders and former Big East star Mac McClung was still on the team. Instead, it involved head coaches Mark Adams and Ed Cooley and a game that was almost like the 2019 national championship game between Texas Tech and Virginia. 

Texas Tech jumped out early, leading by as much as 14 in the first half and making it seem like this game would be a blowout. However, up 27-13, the Red Raiders were limited to just three points in the final eight minutes as Providence rallied with 15 points. Just seconds into the second half, Al Durham would respond, and Providence led for the first time since the start of the game.  

Each team struggled to beat the other over the duration of the half, but two free throws by Nate Watson were enough to give the Friars the lead for good. That and shutting out Texas Tech in the final minute helped give Providence the narrow 72-68 victory. 

Despite coming up just short like they did two years ago, Terrence Shannon Jr. and Kevin Obanor led the Red Raiders with 17 and 12 points respectively. Durham had an incredible game for Providence with 23 points while A.J. Reeves picked up 14 points and Ed Croswell got 11 bench points. This was a strong game for both teams. Both sides were exposed to some potential weaknesses and massive strengths. Already, both teams are in a great position to win in conference play. 

Loyola forward Ryan Schwieger (13) shoots over DePaul forward Yor Anei (10) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo.

Loyola Chicago vs. DePaul (Dec. 4): Still here with the wind 

When these two teams meet, the National Weather Service needs to declare a wind and heat advisory due to the tensions of this Windy City rivalry. If this was last season, Loyola Chicago would have blown the doors off DePaul, but with Cameron Kurtwig gone and DePaul undefeated, the gusts picked up between these two foes. 

Loyola Chicago rambled to a 13-0 run in the first four minutes of the game and a 15-5 lead by the first media timeout. DePaul was not going to go away despite being down by 15 as David Jones and Brandon Johnson, among others, contributed to cutting the lead down. With 6:37 left in the first half, Loyola Chicago’s Lucas Williamson went 1-2 at the free throw line, which was enough for DePaul to raise the score with a 20-5 run to close out the half.  

But the second half was not a breeze. Nick Ongenda tried to do everything for DePaul, but Loyola Chicago kept finding answers. Both teams tussled and kept the game close, but despite everything, the Ramblers led for the final 10:51 of the game and would seal the deal with free throws for a 68-64 victory. 

DePaul is a different Blue Demons squad that does not get enough recognition. Jones finished with 19 points and nine rebounds while Ongenda contributed with 11 points of his own. Javon Freeman-Liberty was still productive with seven points and six rebounds. On the flip side, Williamson had 15 points while Aher Uguak had 12 for the Ramblers. If this game taught us anything about DePaul, it’s that they are not a team any Big East opponent is going to breeze through when it comes to conference play. 

Xavier guard Paul Scruggs (1) reaches for a rebound with Oklahoma State forward Kalib Boone (22) and guard Donovan Williams (4) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla. Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo.

Xavier vs. Oklahoma St. (Dec. 5): A lucky break for Cincy 

There are two reasons that this game was a lucky break for the Musketeers. First, Oklahoma State no longer had first overall pick Cade Cunningham. Second, Zach Freemantle made his season debut. As for the game itself, the Musketeers wanted to send a statement to the Big East about their dominance. 

Xavier stirred the pot first, but the Musketeers and the Cowboys kept the contest close. One could say it was a well-balanced affair with both a combination of offense and defense. After one solid half, Oklahoma State had themselves a four-point lead. Neither team was able to get out to a big lead either, as both teams squandered the lead on multiple occasions. After Jack Nunge made a layup with 13:08 left, the Musketeers led for good. The Cowboys poked at the lead, but Xavier always found an answer, and that gave the Musketeers a 77-71 victory. 

Freemantle is a few games away from returning to the rotation, but three points in 19 minutes is a small step towards success. Paul Scruggs dominated with 19 points while Colby Jones picked up 17 and Nate Johnson earned 15. Oklahoma State was led by Avery Anderson III and his 26 points while Bryce Williams had 11 off the bench. With Freemantle back in the lineup, the Musketeers have the talent they need to be ranked as a top team in the conference and the country. 

The biggest takeaway from this week is that any and every team in the Big East has injected a competitive mindset into their veins. The biggest challenge after that is going to be depth, as proven by both Xavier and No. 15 UConn. Whichever team has the deepest bench at the end of the day has the best chance of coming out on top in the conference. 

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