Leaving town without playing Creighton and with COVID-19 surging through its traveling party was a sobering way for No. 21 Providence to pause its season.
After three straight postponements and nearly two weeks off, the Friars (14-2, 4-1 Big East) will restart their campaign by hosting Georgetown (6-8, 0-3) on Thursday night.
"Just the emotion in the room -- all of our players were prepared to play," Providence coach Ed Cooley said of the abrupt postponement at Creighton on Jan. 11. "The letdown, to not play and to jump on the plane and come back home, was tough to see."
Playing at home against last-place Georgetown gives the Friars a chance to be successful without necessarily being in top form. After coming off their own COVID pause, which spanned nearly three weeks and four postponements, the Hoyas have lost three straight Big East games, none by fewer than 14 points.
The last two losses came without head coach Patrick Ewing, who was in the health and safety protocol. Assistant Louis Orr, who presided over Georgetown's 88-69 loss at St. John's on Sunday, said he expects Ewing to return for the Providence game.
The Hoyas remain shorthanded on the floor, especially in the backcourt. Donald Carey, who ranks No. 2 in the Big East in 3-point shooting accuracy (47.3 percent), has missed all three games since the pause with an unspecified illness. Reserve Kobe Clark has been out for the same reason.
Dante Harris returned from being sidelined with his illness Sunday but was under siege against an aggressive Red Storm defense that forced 21 turnovers and turned them into 29 points.
"They press you the whole game," Orr said. "You can't have turnovers and expect to have success offensively or defensively because they're going to be off to the races when you do turn the ball over."
Aminu Mohammed leads the Hoyas in points (13.8 per game) and rebounds (8.6). Timothy Ighoefe, one of three 7-footers in the rotation, has started the past two games after returning from a broken hand.
Before their pause, the Friars were in a good groove, winning nine of 10, including an 83-73 victory over St. John's in their most recent game on Jan. 8. Nate Watson (22 points, 11 rebounds) led the Friars with help from Jared Bynum (18 points) and Noah Horchler (eight points, 13 rebounds) as Cooley earned his 300th win as a head coach.
Providence has made the most out of its season by going 8-0 in games decided by 10 or fewer points. With four grad students in the starting lineup including transfers Al Durham (Indiana) and Justin Minaya (South Carolina), Providence has used its experience to effectively close out games.
Impressive wins on the Friars' ledger came at Wisconsin, now ranked No. 8, at UConn, now No. 25, and at home against Texas Tech, now No. 18. Providence also toppled then-No. 15 Seton Hall on Dec. 29.
Now the Friars hope their mojo carries over through the pause.
"We've put in some great work," Cooley said. "We don't want to give it away. We've got to try to stay as emotionally and mentally secure as we can."
--Field Level Media