Writer’s Note: This was partially inspired by the YouTube show “Hot Ones” featuring Sean Evans.
What’s going on everyone? From First Half We Feast, I’m Cole Stefan, and you’re reading about “Ice Ones.” This edition of the Big East Baller Update features cold teams and even colder games. The Big East was founded in 1979 by Dave Gavitt and has grown into one of the power conferences in all of college basketball with several titles to boot. There may not be wings, but there were basketball games, so let’s get right to it.
Writer’s Note II: Josh Hart is getting his jersey (not number) retired by Villanova. This is an elite move to honor a Big East legend.
Player of the Week: Justin Moore – Villanova
Freshman of the Week: Kam Jones – Marquette
No. 24 Seton Hall vs. Butler (Jan. 4): The Classic Ice Water
The Classic Ice Water is reserved for blowouts that left one team frozen. If that were the case, I would have included No. 22 Xavier vs. Butler (Jan. 7) and Marquette vs. Georgetown (Jan. 7) here.
Seton Hall lost two heartbreakers to open conference play, but the Pirates were getting some big names back and regaining some momentum. As for Butler, their last contest was a close win against DePaul, and with a week to rest, the Bulldogs wanted to prove why it is hard for a road team to win at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler led by seven before Seton Hall’s offense woke up. The Pirate defense also took control to help the Pirates tie this game, preventing Butler from making a field goal for eight minutes. After being down 16-9, Seton Hall went on a 25-10 run to close out the half, and nearly half of Butler’s points were on free throws.
Seton Hall took over the second half. Butler managed to cut the lead down to six, but that would be all they could muster as the Pirates used dunks and free throws to win 71-56. There were some cold stretches, but despite both teams shooting 41% from the field, it was Seton Hall’s game the entire way.
The Pirates may have dominated, but the game’s leading scorer was Butler’s Bryce Golden, who scored 19 points while Bryce Nze put up 12. Jayden Taylor and Aaron Thompson put up 10 points each, but the one thing that did Butler in was not getting a single point from the bench. Seton Hall did get points from the bench, but Jared Rhoden was controlling the show with 17 points while Alexis Yetna had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. This game proved why Seton Hall should remain in the AP polls more than it proved why Hinkle is a hard place for a road team to play in.
St. John’s vs. No. 16 Providence (Jan. 8): Los Fríos
This is where the Big East magic happens. This game had the perfect balance between a team building momentum and a team recovering following a blowout loss. St. John’s had just taken DePaul to the wire while Providence’s winning ways came to a 32-point halt against Marquette. This blend of momentum in a competitive conference is enough to cause some ice-cold sparks to fly.
Providence had the lead more times in the first half, but the Friars made one field goal in the final three minutes as St. John’s would enter the break up by four thanks to a three-point shot by Aaron Wheeler and a free throw separate from that play.
Julian Champagnie made two layups to start the second half before Ed Cooley took a timeout. Down by seven, the Friars battled back and ultimately took the lead when Nate Watson sunk home a layup with 12 and a half minutes to go. But the Johnnies were not going to give up easily, consistently battling back with buckets from Dylan Addae-Wusu. Despite their brilliant effort to stay in the game, Watson’s dunk with 1:46 left would be the dagger as the Friars won 83-73 and remained undefeated at home.
Providence was feeling it in the second half, and Watson was a critical piece to that puzzle as he dropped 22 points and 11 rebounds. Al Durham and Juan Minaya had 13 apiece with a combined 10 rebounds while Bynum had 18 off the bench. Addae-Wusu felt it too for St. John’s with 20 points on 7-13 shooting with Posh Alexander picking up 14 and Wheeler picking up 15. Both teams showed that they have the talent to compete with anyone, but right now, Providence has the hot hand and the ranking to show for it.
DePaul vs. St. John’s (Jan. 5): The Coldest Brush
This was the coldest game of the week (not involving UConn). If you were to apply this to a chicken wing, your tongue would freeze instantly because of the effects of the Alaskan Frostbite. It comes in many forms, whether it’s The Coldest Brush Overtime or The Coldest Brush Buzzer-Beater or even The Coldest Brush Ice Trae Edition, but this was just the original version. What better way to raise the stakes than playing on the birthday of Hall-of-Famer Lou Carnesecca at the Carnesecca Arena?
The Johnnies had not played since losing to Pittsburgh at the Garden, and they took their revenge on DePaul in a close first half. DePaul had won at Carnesecca Arena last season but had no answer for Champagnie nor Alexander despite the efforts led by Javon Freeman-Liberty. Cold stretches and all, defense was a non-factor as the offenses took control.
Despite everything Alexander and Champagnie did to maintain the lead, DePaul found a way back into this game. Rallied together by David Jones and Jalen Terry, the Blue Demons took the lead on a thunderous dunk from Freeman-Liberty. The Blue Demons were up by as much as five, but thanks to Champagnie and Montez Mathis, the Red Storm came storming back. Both teams went wire-to-wire to the finish line, but Champagnie hit multiple daggers, including the final free throw, as the Red Storm survived 89-84.
With each game, Champagnie proves he is a first-round pick. His 34 points and 16 rebounds were just another piece of evidence to that claim. Addae-Wusu put up 17 points while Alexander had 16 off the bench. Freeman-Liberty could also be drafted this year, as proven by his 24 points and seven rebounds. Terry had 14 off the bench while Brandon Johnson had 13 and Jones had 11. Despite DePaul’s 0-3 conference record, they are proving themselves as a better team from last season while St. John’s continues to meet their expectations.
Honorable mention: No. 19 Villanova vs. DePaul (Jan. 8): Da Iceberg
Do you like games with surprises? Icebergs carry the element of surprise as they are bigger than what’s on the surface. As the metaphor goes, there’s a lot that the public does not see. This game had all the components of an iceberg, from the final score on the surface to the gameplay underneath it.
On the surface, Villanova won 79-64 and was the better team overall. Underneath the surface, DePaul battled with Villanova, especially in the first half. The Blue Demons somehow limited Villanova to four points in the final two minutes as they went into halftime with a five-point lead. Their main advantage was taking a lot of free throws in the final five minutes.
That would have paid off well for DePaul, but this is Villanova. DePaul made just one out of 12 shots to begin the second half and the Wildcats stormed out to a 21-6 run in the first eight minutes of the second half. Whether it was Collin Gillespie hitting a bucket or Caleb Daniels finding the lane, it was not pretty. The Blue Demons did make it a six-point game, but that was not going to cut it as Villanova relied on three-point shots to put the Blue Demons away.
Villanova shot 52.1% from the field and made around two out of every five three-point shots. DePaul was outshot in both categories, trailing by over 10% in both fields. Gillespie had a strong day with 28 points while Justin Moore had 21 and Daniels had 11 off the bench. Despite getting outplayed, Freeman-Liberty put up 34 points in 39 minutes. The effort from DePaul was spectacular, especially in the first half, but it appears both teams are heading down their usual paths once again.
We’ve now gone down the Ice Ones gauntlet, and it was an amazing performance by all of the Big East teams this past week. However, this gauntlet was only one of many more that each team will face in the coming weeks. With the adversity increasing as the temperatures dip, it will be fun to see which teams can handle the most pressure and freezing temps while becoming stronger in the process.