PROVIDENCE — One proven express lane to the bottom of the Big East comes with losing games at home and the Friars know protecting their Dunkin’ Donuts Center court is a must.

PC lost its last game at the Dunk last Friday in a 70-58 defeat against sixth-ranked Butler. It was the team’s second home loss of the season after the Friars were upset by Pennsylvania on Nov. 23.

Wednesday’s 63-58 win against St. John’s represented a vital bounce-back contest for Ed Cooley’s Friars. The coach knows that winning Big East road games is a difficult chore so winning at home becomes paramount.

“Losing at home is a killer,” Cooley said. “I’m proud of where we are right now. We have an opportunity to play another game at home [vs. St. John’s]. Losing is the worst thing ever, especially when you lose in your building in a conference game. It’s so hard to win on the road.”

The Friars haven’t dominated like they need to at the Dunk for the last year. Last season, PC finished just 11-7 at home, including 4-5 in the Big East. One of the victories was over St. John’s, 61-57.

PC opened Big East play with three of its first five games at the Dunk. Three of the next four will be on the road with the next two at Creighton Saturday and in Newark, N.J., against Seton Hall next Wednesday.

Missing pieces

The Friars played without both A.J. Reeves and Emmitt Holt on Wednesday night. Reeves whacked his head late in the Butler game and was reported afterward as “woozy” by Cooley. He has not practiced since. Holt, who was replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Greg Gantt, is nursing an ankle injury. Without Reeves and Holt, Cooley’s rotation melted to just seven players against the Red Storm.

The Friars have been fairly fortunate fighting the injury bug so far this season. The loss of Reeves and Holt brought the team’s games lost to 18 on the season but eight of those belong to sophomore Kris Monroe, who is out for the year with a broken foot.

Coach is a winner

Before St. John’s won its first Big East game last Saturday against DePaul, first-year coach Mike Anderson could tell his team wasn’t far away. He should know. In 17 seasons at Alabama-Birmingham, Missouri and Arkansas, Anderson never coached a team with a losing record.

“Here we were sitting 0-3 [in the Big East] and I don’t think we’re that far off. You’ve got to have short-term memory in the wins and in the losses,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to be ready to battle every night. It’s one of the best leagues in the country with outstanding coaching. We’re seeing right now, we’re kind of beating up on each other.”

The Red Storm will need senior guard Mustapha Heron to enjoy a big season if it hopes to finish strong in the Big East. Heron spent 10 days in Providence last August with Cooley and the Big East all-star team that went on to represent USA Basketball in the PanAm Games in Peru.

Heron missed three games after injuring his ankle in a win over Brown on Dec. 10. His next effort since occurred in a 15-point outing in the DePaul win, even though he shot 4-of-10 from the field.

“Mustapha’s missed three, four weeks and his timing is off, he’s pressing a bit,” Anderson said. “We will ease him back into it and gain his confidence back. The Big East is really, really good. He knows that as well as anyone. We’ll get him back in sync because he has to help our basketball team. Our guys are aware of what he brings to the table.”

kmcnamar@providencejournal.com