PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence coach Ed Cooley predicted his team would learn from a 0-2 trip that brought an end to its season-best nine-game win streak.
He was right.
Noah Locke had a career-high 29 points, including seven 3-pointers, to help the 22nd-ranked Friars find their footing at home in a 75-64 win over the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday.
Bryce Hopkins added 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Friars (15-5, 7-2 Big East) improved to 11-0 at Amica Mutual Pavilion. They are 2-2 without point guard Jared Bynum, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a torso injury.
“What our players learned is we are pretty damn good,” Cooley said. “Providence College is not here as what they call just happy to be here. We’re here to win and we’re here to win big.”
The Blue Demons (9-11, 3-6) came in fresh off a home victory over eighth-ranked Xavier. But they dropped their sixth straight road game and are 0-4 in conference games away from home. Umjoja Gibson had 16 points and five assists for DePaul and Da’Sean Nelson added 13 points.
DePaul pulled within 53-50 with just under 10 minutes to play. But a 15-8 push by the Friars, capped by Locke’s seventh 3 of the day, pushed the lead back to 68-58 with 5:10 left.
“It felt really good. I felt like I was in a good groove,” Locke said. “They dialed my number up at the right time. In certain situations like that I feel like I can knock the shots down.”
Cooley said they are getting exactly what they hoped from the graduate transfer, who played three years at Florida and one at Louisville.
“He knows exactly why he’s here,” Cooley said. “He continues to get better and better. We needed that performance today — a lot of back breakers. … I like when players are forceful and they want their numbers called.”
The Friars finished 10 of 23 from beyond the arc.
The Friars sped out to a 14-2 lead, connecting on four of their first six attempts from 3. The Blue Demons missed nine of their first 10 shots, then ran off a 9-0 run to close the gap.
DePaul got as close as a point late in the half, but the Friars closed with a 12-6 flourish for a 37-30 halftime lead.
Cooley said Bynum’s recovery continues to be a “slow process” and that he hasn’t shot a ball since he left the Jan. 4 win over UConn.
“Hopefully we get Jared back soon. I don’t know when that happens,” Cooley said. “We’re not going to be a championship-level team until we’re full throttle. …. When Jared’s on the floor, he’s a fifth-year senior, he knows how to win and knows how to set the table.”
While Saturday’s win helped the Friars avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season, they will still be in danger of dropping out of the rankings after two losses this past week.
DePaul: The Blue Demons were hoping to carry some momentum coming out of the Xavier win but must get better on the road if they want to finish the season on a positive note.
Providence: A nice bounce-back win, but this team is clearly missing the floor presence of Bynum.
DePaul: At Georgetown on Tuesday.
Providence: Hosts Butler on Wednesday.
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