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February 17, 2008 Columns No Comments

Fighting Friars Just a Little Short

by Phil Kasiecki

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – They didn’t win on Saturday, but any notion that Providence doesn’t have any fight left in them should be dismissed right away. Their 80-72 loss to Louisville certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort or fight on their part. The simple reality is that the Friars were just a little short of a very good and deep team.

The Friars came out with plenty of intensity and turned that into a 5-7 start from the field to build up an early 15-8 lead. Their leader, junior Geoff McDermott, spearheaded the start and had the look of someone determined to win the game. When there was a play to be made, McDermott was there and battling like the warrior he is.

“They played their hearts out, they played their guts out,” said head coach Tim Welsh. “They didn’t always play well, but they left every ounce on the floor. They’ve got a lot of pride.

“Somebody asked me, have they given up? Are you kidding me? Don’t ask me that question again, it’s a ridiculous question. Those guys are playing their hearts out, they’re going to play their hearts out.”

Early on, the Friars didn’t let Louisville get into the press, but even when the Cardinals were able to do it, they were able to hang in and didn’t turn the ball over much against it. They committed just six turnovers in the first half, and Louisville turned them into just three points. Even when they turned it over more in the second half (eight versus six in the first half), the Cardinals didn’t blow the game open from it, although Jerry Smith got a quick basket off an inbound steal during a decisive run.

The Friars stayed right in the game in the second half, leading until past the halfway point when the Cardinals took over the game. They still fought to stay within striking distance, but as has happened often this season, they were just a little short of the opposition. They just couldn’t will themselves past a team that’s now tied atop the Big East and has the momentum.

That last point adds to it. It’s one thing to be so close against a team at the bottom of the standings, but quite another to be close against a team as good as Louisville. A win might have given them a big boost for the remainder of the season, and at a good time considering Georgetown comes to town on Monday. It might have been the boost they needed, especially with the effort they showed.

“They’re hurting in there because they have a lot of pride, and we lost to a team that’s most likely going to be right there to go to the Final Four,” said Welsh.

The Friars battled inside, to the point of winning the battle on the glass and scoring 13 second-chance points. They battled by holding the Cardinals to 7-23 from long range, and in the first half the Cardinals shot below 40 percent from the field. That was reason enough to think the Friars could win the game, considering their defensive struggles for a lot of this season. But some of those struggles came back in the second half as Louisville shot 53 percent from the field.

And once the Friars got behind, their offense couldn’t get them back in it as it lacked direction once again. Further emblematic of the day, Brian McKenzie did all hr could, going 3-5 from long range en route to 13 points. Weyinmi Efejuku continued to attack the basket to try to get something going besides three-point shots. McDermott still battled with the intensity he used to show on the gridiron.

In the end, however, battling for 40 minutes just wasn’t quite enough.

Other Notable Games

Memphis 79, UAB 78: Behind 32 points from Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Tigers barely stay undefeated thanks to a late rally.

Syracuse 77, Georgetown 70: A big win for the Orange, who need to start putting together some quality wins if they want to be in the NCAA Tournament discussion.

Connecticut 74, South Florida 73 (OT): The Huskies keep on winning, although there were times it looked like they might not pull this one out.

Stanford 67, Arizona 66: The Cardinal manage to split their two games in Arizona, dropping the Wildcats to 6-6 in Pac-10 play.

California 76, Arizona State 73: Not a good loss for the Sun Devils, fresh off their big win over Stanford two nights earlier. Ryan Anderson’s 28 points and 12 rebounds lead the way.

Purdue 71, Northwestern 56: 11 straight wins for Purdue as they roll behind E’Twaun Moore’s 28 points.

Indiana 80, Michigan State 61: Give the Hoosiers credit for playing a great game during a period of turmoil, as Kelvin Sampson’s days there draw to a close.

Vanderbilt 61, Florida 58: Could the Gators miss out on the NCAA Tournament? With a 6-5 mark in SEC play and a poor non-conference strength of schedule, it’s not a given right now. The Commodores also cap off a big 2-0 week.

Mississippi State 80, Arkansas 74: The Bulldogs avenge an earlier loss to the Razorbacks and take command of the SEC West, going up two games on Arkansas.

Auburn 90, Mississippi 78: The Rebels continue to struggle in SEC play, falling to 3-7 with this road loss.

Maryland 82, Florida State 72: The Terrapins stay right in the hunt for third in the ACC, improving to 7-4 behind the continuing stellar play of Greivis Vasquez.

Clemson 71, North Carolina State 64: Two losses in three days for the Wolfpack drop them to 4-7 in the ACC.

Texas 82, Baylor 77: The Longhorns drop the Bears to 5-5 in the Big 12.

Kansas State 100, Missouri 63: The Wildcats come back from Wednesday night’s loss at Texas Tech with a vengeance. In particular, Michael Beasley was a man on a mission with 40 points and 17 rebounds.

Oklahoma State 59, Texas A&M 54: A bad home loss for the Aggies just as they had been on a roll again, as it snaps a five-game winning streak.

Richmond 69, Duquesne 66: Quietly, the Spiders are in a three-way tie for third in the Atlantic 10 at 6-4 after this road win.

Butler 51, Cleveland State 46: The Bulldogs win a Horizon League showdown, avenging an earlier loss on the road to Cleveland State.

Davidson 86, Furman 51: The Wildcats move to 17-0 in the Southern Conference.

Old Dominion 67, VCU 66: With this road win in a rivalry game, the Monarchs have jumped right into the second place logjam in the CAA.

UNC Wilmington 75, George Mason 73: A huge road win for the Seahawks, one that ties them with the Patriots for second in the CAA at 10-5.

Hofstra 86, James Madison 85: The struggling Dukes drop another one, their ninth loss in ten games.

IUPUI 69, Oral Roberts 66: The Jaguars hand the Golden Eagles their first Summit League loss. The Golden Eagles still lead by a half game, one in the loss column.

Loyola (Md.) 83, Siena 76 (OT): This tightens up the race in the MAAC, as four teams are now separated by a game atop the standings.

Fairfield 88, Rider 76: This game helped tighten the MAAC race up, as Rider is no longer in sole possession of first place.

Holy Cross 63, Bucknell 53: The Crusaders tighten up the race in the Patriot League as both teams are 5-6 while trying to catch league-leading American. The road team wins both games in this rivalry this season.

Cornell 73, Dartmouth 63: Two more road wins this weekend move the Big Red to 8-0 in Ivy League play.

Brown 65, Princeton 63 (OT): The Bears try to keep pace with Cornell, improving to 6-2 in Ivy League play with their second straight road win.

Lamar 101, Texas State 90: After a rough go of it in non-conference, the Cardinals are 9-1 in Southland play and are a game up on Stephen F. Austin.

VMI 97, UNC-Asheville 75: A damaging home loss for the Bulldogs drops them to 7-3 in the Big South, a half game behind Winthrop and even in the loss column.

Wagner 68, Monmouth 61: Durell Vinson comes up big for the NEC leaders, scoring 19 points and grabbing 19 rebounds.

Norfolk State 65, Delaware State 63: The Spartans tie Morgan State atop the MEAC with a 9-2 conference record.


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