Call & Times

Diallo out to close career with flourish

PC senior has struggled during Friars’ tough stretch

- By BRENDAN McGAIR bmcgair@pawtuckett­

PROVIDENCE – Some PC Friar thoughts/observatio­ns as Ed Cooley & Co. gear up for their fifth straight game against a nationally ranked opponent:

• Ever since scoring 19 points against St. John’s on Jan. 15, Alpha Diallo has gone backwards. In the four games since PC’s 63-58 win over the Red Storm, the senior has averaged just six points while combining to shoot 9-for-38 from the field.

The past two games have especially been rough on Diallo, a preseason firstteam all-Big East selection. He was a non-factor against Villanova and spent much of the second half on the bench with zero points next to his name. Last Saturday saw the 6-foot-7 swingman serve as a member of Providence’s bench brigade and finish with one field goal in 25 minutes.

Across the board, Diallo has experience­d a sharp decline in all major offensive categories when comparing the output from his junior year to this current campaign. He still leads the Friars in scoring, yet his 12.8 ppg on 39 percent shooting is down significan­tly from the 16 ppg on 42 percent shooting that was posted last season.

There is one school of thought as to why the final year of Diallo’s Friar career has been unable to live up the advanced billing. Last spring, he worked out for multiple NBA clubs before deciding to exhaust his final year of eligibilit­y. Feedback was provided and in turn allowed Diallo to put himself in a position where he can better market himself following the conclusion of his Providence career.

The Alpha Diallo who was an emerging star during his sophomore year and then started to put the majority of the pieces together as a junior, has given way to a more perimeter-oriented player. He’s been caught in the crosshairs of trying to help the Friars while simultaneo­usly place himself in the best possible light in an effort to catch the fancy of pro scouts. In many ways, you can’t blame a college player for wanting to model his game in a fashion that allows him to check off more boxes.

The time, however, has come for Diallo to put all future basketball endeavors on hold. He’s spent the vast majority of the season stepping out of a comfort zone and the results have not worked in his favor. Even Diallo’s accuracy from beyond the three-point arc is down from 33 percent as a junior to 25 percent through 25 games this season.

At this current juncture with No. 21 Creighton set to invade the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tip, Ed Cooley’s tallest task is trying to get Diallo right.

“There are days when he’s great. There are days when he’s struggling, but I think he’s shown during his time here that when all is said and done, he’ll have some consistent games,” said the PC coach. “We need him to be consistent right now. He’s a player who’s been in our system and has won a lot of games. If we’re going to be the team we want to be, Alpha needs to become a better player and a better leader. I have to become a better coach and a better leader and the seniors need to do their job.”

For Diallo, the home stretch of his career playing basketball at Providence College beckons. Beginning with the Creighton game, there are nine games left that will carry the Friars to the finish line of the regular season.

On the surface, time appears to be running out. Upon closer examinatio­n, you’ll find plenty of chances for Diallo to author a successful chapter or two. Watching footage from past seasons might be a good place to start for someone who once upon a time earned high marks for his craftiness around the rim. The Friars need that particular version of Alpha Diallo to step forward – not the one who in 2019-20 has struggled to shift into gear.

• Luwane Pipkins stepped to the free-throw line 10 times Saturday at Butler and made every shot. The guard’s pinpoint accuracy at the charity stripe was essential as Pipkins scored the final six points for the Friars, who escaped Hinkle Fieldhouse with a 65-61 win.

“It’s like having a good closer [in baseball] back when Dennis Eckersley or Mariano Rivera were closing games. If you’ve got a closer like that and we’re able to get him the ball, you’re going to win a lot of games,” said Cooley. “Look around college basketball. You see teams missing the front ends of 1-and-1s.”

Pipkins has missed just one of the 48 free throws since he joined the Friars For someone who’s gone through his fair share of oncourt peaks and valleys, having him out there during the closing stages is imperative – even if that means living with the occasional head-scratching attempt.

“He works on it every day and he’s a confident player,” said PC guard David Duke when asked about Pipkins’ free-throw shooting. “When teams start to foul, that’s the guy you want with the ball in his hands.”

• Cooley has never hesitated to lavish praise on the Big East’s 18game double round-robin schedule. The simplicity and straightfo­rwardness is also accompanie­d with the art of familiarit­y. The Friars and Bluejays locked horns as recently as Jan. 18, thus you would like to believe the scouting report is still fresh when it comes to Marcus Zegarowski, Ty-Shone Alexander, and Mitch Ballock – a trio that’s combined for 173 three-pointers and nearly 60 percent of Creighton’s overall points thus far.

The Friars (12-10, 5-4 Big East) know what the Jays (17-5, 6-3 Big East) are all about, hence Cooley and his staff can devote extra time to fine-tuning areas in need of addressing.

“This time of year, you’re working on end-of-game execution, free throws, and sideline-out-of-bounds plays. It’s not so much about the opponent but rather your own team,” said Cooley.

Added Duke, who poured in a career-best 36 points the last time the Friars met the Bluejays, “Obviously we didn’t come away with a victory [Creighton rallied for a 78-74 win in Omaha] but everything is still pretty fresh in our minds. We know what we need to do against them.”

 ?? File photo ?? Providence entered Tuesday with a NET rating of 65, if the Friars want to make a run toward the NCAA Tournament then senior Alpha Diallo (11) is going to have to play better than he’s played in the last two games.
File photo Providence entered Tuesday with a NET rating of 65, if the Friars want to make a run toward the NCAA Tournament then senior Alpha Diallo (11) is going to have to play better than he’s played in the last two games.

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