Blue Demons Extend PC's Pain

After a three game road trip where Providence College went 0-3, including a loss to Louisville in their Big East opener, the Friars returned home Saturday night for their conference play home opener against DePaul. Despite being the favored team, and finally playing at full strength, PC lost handedly to the Blue Demons, 83-73.

Offensive flatline: Although the Friars were able to score 73 points for the game, the Providence struggled heavily from the field. As a team the Friars shot only 38% for the game on 24-63 shooting, including 3-15 from three point territory for the game. Bryce Cotton again led the Friars in scoring with 20 points on 4-13 shooting, but only had four points at the half and shot 1-5 at the midway point of the game. Josh Fortune had a particularly poor offensive night and didn't connect on any of his seven attempts.

Since Kris Dunn, Vincent Council, and Sidiki Johnson have come into the Friar lineup Providence has struggled from the field. After the Colgate game the Friars have only connected on 95 of their 238 attempts, good for 39.9% shooting. Conversely, the Friars shot better on less attempts from their return from Puerto Rico to the Colgate game, shooting 43.1% from 94-218 attempts. Furthermore, the Friars averaged 54.5 shot attempts per game from Fairfield to the Mississippi State games, five less than the 59.5 attempts per game they're averaging since the Boston College game.

There are a lot of cases that can be made based upon these numbers. The most obvious is that more shots are being taken because theres more shooters willing to take shots. They could be missing these shot attempts because of rust or a poor decision, but that's a case by case argument.

There's also a case that these increased attempts are an effort by the returning players to rediscover their shot and find their groove in the college game atmosphere, but that's making a leap of assumption and there's no definitive answer to why. The strongest case comes from what's being displayed on the court – the players are running the plays Ed Cooley has drawn up, but they're not executing their shots well enough to convert because they're struggling to find their own chemistry with each other. More attempts (238 to 218) without any increase in conversion (94 versus 95 converted shots) means that players aren't finding ways to work with each other to increase the percentage made on these shot attempts. This is a problem with player chemistry, and one that can most likely be worked out as the players get used to playing with each other.

Defensive disasters: The Friars were heralded as a great defensive team prior to their road trip, especially guarding against the three point shot. Since Boston College, however, that has changed drastically. The Friars have allowed their opponents to shoot 41% collectively from the three these past four games, going 32 of 78. While 41% isn't a number that would cause disaster on it's own, the way the Friars have gotten scored on is. The Friars are struggling to communicate defensively and find their roles with the recent roster additions. Switching off of picks and leaving a man is a problem when it occurs a couple times a game, but when games are being decided by these repeated mistakes and the coaching staff isn't making any adjustments, fans have a right to feel concerned.

While part of this issue does lend to the idea that on-court chemistry is still readjusting to these situations, another component is the coaching staff. While it would be one thing if the players were losing their man and then having to chase down the open shooter, or they weren't switching fast enough on defense to clog up the lane, that's one thing, but the reality is half the time the effort hasn't been there. The defensive performance against DePaul, while marginally better over the efforts of Louisville, Brown, and BC, still left much to be desired from both a player and coaching standpoint.

Assists/Turnovers: In addition to a poor shooting effort the Friars also couldn't protect the ball. With 23 turnovers for the game (14 of them in the second half) the Friars came close to have a 1:2 assist to turnover ratio. What's more disheartening than the amount of turnovers alone was that for the game PC only had 12 assists among the team. Half of those assists came from Vincent Council, but he had eight turnovers to himself alone. Kris Dunn, who in his first game as a Friar tied a record of 13 assists, only had one to his name, along with six turnovers.

Shouldering the responsibility for this performance falls on the players. While the coaching staff can be held accountable for certain plays, there were too many lazy passes and easy opportunities for DePaul to disrupt the offensive flow by intercepting or tipping a pass (DePaul would finish the game with eight team steals), or the Friars would simply play irresponsibly with the ball. Within the first minute of the second half Kris Dunn and Vincent Council had a combined three turnovers that resulted in DePaul gaining a double digit lead over the Friars, 41-30. This wasn't a matter of poor coaching, but rather poor protection and execution.

Finally a Frontcourt: A shining spot in an otherwise underwhelming performance was the frontcourt effort put on by the Friars. Sidiki Johnson had his best college game to date, logging in nine points and 13 rebounds in 20 minutes of play, the only frontcourt player to come off the bench in this game. Kadeem Batts quietly had another sterling performance that shouldn't be overlooked, shooting 6-13 and finishing the game with 17 points. If not for Bryce Cotton's second half surge at the end, Batts would have been the leading scorer for the Friars. LaDontae Henton didn't have a highlight night on either end of the floor but still contributed significantly on the boards with nine rebounds (second most after Johnson) and added six points on 3-7 shooting. As a unit the frontcourt helped capture nine of the Friars' 16 offensive rebounds, scored 38 points in the paint, and allowed for 13 second-chance points. Meanwhile, Brice Kofane and Lee Goldsbrough did not play.

At 8-6 overall and 0-2 in the Big East, Providence will now welcome 7th ranked Syracuse to the Dunk on Wednesday. Not an easy opponent to break a four game losing streak against.

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