Friar fans have long said that all they want to see is improved defense and improved, sustained effort. If that is truly the case, PC fans have to take away some positives from Providence's win over Yale. While the offense was a train wreck, defensively the Friars are showing marked improvement.
Against Dartmouth, possibly the worst of the Ivy League, PC's defensive field goal percentage was just 25%. Yale was able to shoot just 33% against the Friars, but kept the game close on the heels of a five minute defensive lapse in the second half, and PC's own poor shooting and missed free throws.
Led by guards Austin Morgan and Porter Braswell, Yale sought to control the pace of the game, slowing the tempo and running the shot clock down on most possessions. The Bulldogs were largely successful because of PC misses and turnovers.
Several times in the first half, Providence had a chance to put distance between itself and the Bulldogs. The Friars led 25-16 after a Bryce Cotton jumper and Bilal Dixon free throw, but Yale narrowed the lead to six after a Raffi Mantilla three and Reggie Wilhite jumper wrapped around a Marshon Brooks lay-up. The Friars headed to the lockerroom up, 29-21, but had the opportunity to be up by a lot more after stifling Yale defensively.
PC pushed the lead to 33-21 on a Brooks' lay-up and led 37-27 after Gerard Coleman's drive, but then Yale heated up. Unable to pound the ball inside, the Bulldogs took advantage of a breakdown on the perimeter by PC and raced out on a 14-3 run, keyed by two Morgan threes, a Greg Mangano trey and a lay-up and free throw by Morgan. When the smoke cleared, Yale led 41-40 and the Friars were panicked.
As the Friars panicked, the offense ground to a halt. Vincent Council spent one entire possession dribbling around the perimeter as his teammates stood around and watched, and then missed a driving lay-up as the shot clock neared zero. Meanwhile, Yale had gained confidence. An 8-0 run pushed the Bulldog's lead to 49-43 with 7:41 left and Providence looked to be in a world of trouble.
PC began its comeback with a Council lay-up, a Coleman jumper and after a turnover, a Dixon lay-up that knotted the score. Over the final five minutes, no more than two points separated the teams until the final buzzer.
Four free throws by Council offset a dunk by Wilhite and PC led by two, but Yale jumped back into the lead on a Jesse Pritchard three pointer. Brooks and Morgan traded a free throw, and Yale led 55-54 with 1:42 remaining. At that point, Duke Mondy made the offensive play of the game on a drive and jumper that gave the lead back to the Friars. Braswell missed a three, and Brooks rebounded and nailed two free throws for a three point lead with :19 left. The Friars scrambled on defense to deny the three pointer and Mangano missed badly at the buzzer. PC had survived… but barely.
For the game, the Friars shot just 19-49 and 2-14 from three. They also missed 11 free throws and had only 10 assists against 16 turnovers. PC barely outrebounded Yale 39-36 and were outrebounded on the offensive glass 10-9. Although Council scored 18 points, he shot 3-12 and had 6 turnovers. Brooks chipped in with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Dixon had 10 points and 14 boards.
On the personnel side, Dre Evans played just one minute, while Ray Hall and Ron Giplaye saw no action. Contributions from Kadeem Batts and Lee Goldsbrough were minimal.
Looming right ahead on Thursday for the Friars is a very good Morgan State team in the first game of the Cancun Challenge. To avoid an early loss, PC will have to play a whole lot better, especially on offense.
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