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What Providence Is Capable Of

February 7, 2008 Columns No Comments

Friars Show What They’re Capable Of

by Phil Kasiecki

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The second half of Providence’s 79-65 win over DePaul gave us a look at what this team can be. It was a half that they would surely love to bottle up and take to the next game, and the next one after that.

The Friars started the half by scoring the first 10 points, and they were basically in control after that. They got the ball inside to Randall Hanke (21 points on 8-13 shooting) for a number of baskets. They hit their three-pointers (5-7 from long range in the second half). Brian McKenzie and Dwain Williams couldn’t miss. They shot 65 percent from the field. The defense, which has deserted the team all too often this season, came alive and shut down DePaul.

The coaching staff didn’t have to give them a speech or read them the riot act, either.

“With the way things have been the last two weeks, I was happy that I went into the locker room and the guys were clapping before I walked in there,” said head coach Tim Welsh.

The Friars proved a resilient bunch, at least more than they appeared to a few nights earlier. They entered the game having lost four straight, and the bench looked like it had no life at times on Saturday night. It was clear to former Friar Corey Wright, who Welsh said came by his office and talked about it before talking to the team about having some fight in them.

“He could tell that we weren’t fighting, he said our body language was terrible,” said junior forward McDermott. “He said we need to play harder and play tougher.”

Welsh said the team didn’t do much physically between Saturday night’s loss to West Virginia and Tuesday night. He saw that his team isn’t struggling with fundamentals or running an offense or defense, but more with intangibles. He also felt that they didn’t need to do anything drastic because despite the losing streak, it’s not as if they were being blown out or losing convincingly each time out.

The second half of Tuesday night’s game was big in another respect. The Friars have had several halftime leads that they didn’t gain on in the second half or lost entirely, and this game saw the opposite. They trailed by seven at halftime and were out-rebounded by seven, but they turned the tables entirely.

McDermott has battled a nagging right knee injury of late, but showed no ill effects on Tuesday night. He said the knee has been better some days than others, and Tuesday was one of the better ones as he said he “didn’t feel it at all”. He went for 11 points and 10 rebounds, including the highlight of the game as he completed an alley-oop dunk during the second half.

Hanke caught an errant elbow in the eye in the team’s win at Connecticut a couple of weeks ago, and only recently looks to be back to 100 percent. On Tuesday night, he was the post scorer they need to balance out their three-point shooting, which has naturally come and gone. More importantly, he gives them another offensive option so that their three-pointers can come in flow instead of from settling early in the possession.

“We have to have better balance on all parts of the court in this league, because you can’t live and die every night with (three-point shots),” said Welsh.

The Friars’ biggest issue with the three-point shot has been twofold: they have lived and died by it, and they have often settled on those shots. Neither lends itself to a lot of success, as teams can just key on shooters and in taking early shots, the defense doesn’t have to work at all and the offense doesn’t get into a flow. There have been plenty of times this season where the Friars’ offense has been a series of quick trips up and down the floor that ended with a quick three-pointer.

It hasn’t helped that point guard Sharaud Curry has played just eight minutes this season. He will redshirt this season, which has been widely speculated and was confirmed by the Providence Journal. Williams has backed him up, but he’s not a true point guard and as such has been up and down in terms of running the team. The offense hasn’t had much consistency as a result, and at this point the players have to continue to adapt because he won’t be coming back this year.

The Friars are surely not going to reproduce the second-half numbers from Tuesday every time out. Even the most talented teams won’t do that. But if the intangibles can be carried over, they just might bottle up some of that performance for later and turn it into a few more wins.


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