Friar Basketball

Resilient Friars Show Competitive Edge

January 5, 2011

Prior to this season I wrote an article stating that the one thing I’d be looking at this season wouldn’t be the won/loss record, but to see if Providence can find what the program had been missing in recent years: competitors.  Tonight, against Pittsburgh, Providence competed as hard as any Friar team has in the Keno Davis era.  It didn’t result in a conference win, but the effort should have won over many in Friartown.

While the execution in the final minute may overshadow 40 minutes of hard fought basketball with perhaps the Big East’s best team, the young Friars kept taking punches in this one and simply refused to hit the canvas.

Down seven at halftime, Providence continued to push Pittsburgh throughout the first ten minutes of the second half.  They pulled to within two with 17:51 left, to one with 14:36 to go, and trailed 52-50 before Pitt went to a zone, slowing the PC offense and resulting in a 9-0 Panther run to push the lead to 11.

The Friars continued to fight, scratching their way back to within four, 65-61, after a Duke Mondy three pointer with under six minutes to play, to which Pittsburgh countered with a basket and a foul.  Back down seven, PC freshman Gerard Coleman connected from deep on the next possession to make it a four point game once again.  They weren’t going away quietly on this night.

The second half was a series of Pittsburgh mini-runs followed by Providence clawing their way back into the game with an aggressive full court press and timely shots from deep.

The final seven minutes were the best Providence has played all season, and perhaps the most mentally strong performance under Davis.  Those final seven minutes consisted of:

  • The Providence defense drawing four offensive fouls
  • A 15-5 run in the final three minutes
  • Seven Pittsburgh turnovers
  • Six three point field goals

The key sequence looked to be when Providence drew an offensive foul on Pitt’s senior point guard Brad Wanamaker, which Marshon Brooks followed up by drilling a contested three with 1:31 to go.  Wanamaker had fouled out and PC had a four point lead in a rocking Dunkin Donuts Center.

Yet, the same things that killed PC against St. John’s were the deciding factors against Pitt: depth and experience.

Stepping in for Wanamaker, sophomore Travon Woodall, who headed into this game averaging 4 points and 30% from downtown, made the two biggest plays of the game.

He first broke down the PC defense, threading a pass to Gary McGhee for a layup to keep Pitt’s hopes alive with just over a minute to play.  After an unforced Providence turnover, Woodall calmly stepped into a three pointer that gave the Panthers a one point lead they would not relinquish.

Depth was the most glaring difference between a top tier Big East team and one looking to prove itself and it allowed Pitt to avoid a huge road upset.  While Providence’s point guard played the full 40 minutes for the third time in three Big East games, Pittsburgh’s backup keyed a victory when their leader went out.

Digging Deeper:

  • While Pittsburgh shot well from the floor and from deep, this was a very solid defensive effort for the Friars.  As mentioned previously, Pitt turned the ball over seven times in the final seven minutes, and a whopping 22 for the game.  The Friars ended the night with 14 steals and more offensive fouls drawn than any games in recent memory.
  • Providence also held their own on the glass against the nation’s top rebounding team.  Davis has been able to get away with playing Brooks at the power forward spot, making Providence more difficult to defend.  While not ideal, Brooks has held up against bigger frontcourts as Bilal Dixon and Kadeem Batts have rotated time at center.
  • I’ll continue to harp on getting Duke Mondy a shot inside the arc to get his shot going, but his outside shooting played a key role in keeping the Friars close in the final 10 minutes.  Mondy got into a great rhythm in this one and it resulted 4-8 from three.
  • How good has Brooks been this season?  It took four bullet points before I mentioned that he went for 28 points on 10-21 from the field and 5-5 from the stripe.  Davis did a solid job switching up the defenses tonight, but not getting Brooks the ball late in this one hurt.  The kid has had a great season and deserved for that pull-up three to be the moment of the game we were all talking about afterwards.
  • Has Batts surpassed Dixon as the best big man on this roster?  He knocked down five of six free throws and threw a beautiful pump fake on McGhee before converting on the layup that gave Providence a one point lead with 2:11 left.  The freshman also hit a huge hook shot to make it a one possession game at the 3:19 mark.  That shot made the late run possible.
  • Just PC’s luck.  McGhee is a 42% free throw shooter and connected on both with 18 seconds left to make it a four point game.  On the other end, a Vincent Council layup rimmed out and he proceeded to miss both freebies, ending PC’s chances.
  • Council was terrific in pushing the pace.  The sophomore was in attack mode on both ends of the floor, resulting in a 13 point, 10 assist, six steal performance.  With the Friars struggling at times in the halfcourt set, Council’s ability to attack defenses before they are set will continue to be key for PC’s offense.
  • Providence is getting virtually nothing out of the 7-13 spots on their roster.  Mondy played 33 effective minutes off of the bench, but the rest of the subs combined for six minutes played and one point.
  • Lively crowd at the Dunk tonight.
  • Tonight marked the return of former Providence assistant Pat Skerry.  Friar fans may have hard feelings over the coach who left after only two seasons on Smith Hill, but Pat is a really good guy and an extremely hard worker who was offered an elite coaching position.  I tend to stay away from personal stories on the site, but one of my earliest interactions with him came as I was just about to head out for a six hour round-trip drive to watch Gerard Coleman get a second shot at Will Barton and Brewster (insert “get a life” joke here).  Pat had read on my site that I was going to attend and caught late word that Gerard was out for the game.  He scrambled to contact me and caught me just before I was heading out, saving me what would have been a long and frustrating ride home.  I believe Tilton lost by about 30 that day.  I was disappointed to miss out on what I thought would be a great story for the site, but had a new appreciation for Pat after that.  I have to imagine not many people in his position would take the time to do something like that for a guy who had been blogging for two months.  I wish him the best of luck at Pittsburgh and beyond.