Friars Slip The Trap Versus Huskies

The early season schedule has been, to say the least, an interesting one for Providence College. Filled with little time off and trap games galore, the Friars have charted a course that has taken them to a 7-1 record after Wednesday's 77-72 win over Northeastern.

The game against Northeastern seemed to shape up as a classic trap game for Providence. Coming just two nights after a blowout win over Central Connecticut State, and just three days before the annual grudge match with the University of Rhode Island, PC easily could have slipped up against a solid Husky squad that always seems to play the Friars tough.

Add to the mix yet another small, quiet crowd and few students, and there was precious little energy in the building. And what energy there was, seemed to flow from a Northeastern team hungry for an upset road win. In fact, the Friars played flat and listless at the beginning and the Huskies took full advantage.

"This is exactly the kind of game that maybe we lose in the past," said coach Keno Davis.

Northeastern jumped out to 5-0, 11-2 and 25-14 leads as the Friars seemed disconcerted and back on their heels. The Huskies hit 10 of their first 12 shots and their rangy, athletic backcourt of Chaisson Allen and Joel Smith gave PC fits as they repeatedly found open spots and knocked down shots. For the first twelve minutes of the game, Davis desperately shuffled his lineup, staring at a 31-20 deficit, and hoping to find a hot combination.

At about the eight minute to play mark, the tide began to turn. Northeastern cooled off – after all, what team can maintain an 80% field goal pace for an entire half – and the Friars began to find the range. A jumper by Bilal Dixon and layups by Marshon Brooks and Vincent Council trimmed the lead to 33-30. PC closed the half with a buzzer-beater jumper by Brooks to trail by just 37-35.

"I wish I had a good sound byte for you," laughed Davis. "But I honestly don't know what turned it around for us. We just started playing harder and making plays. I can tell you that there was a lot of confidence in the lockerroom at halftime. After all, our team was in the same position on Monday. Down big early and down by two at halftime and we knew we had played very well in the second half."

Led by Brooks, Dixon and Council, the Friars asserted themselves in the second half and actually took a 41-39 lead on a Kadeem Batts jumper, before relinquishing the lead again and playing two to four points behind for the next eight minutes. PC was having particular trouble stopping Allen (24 points), who was popping outside shots and weaving his way to the rim.

Finally, at the ten minute mark, PC grabbed the lead on a Council layup and a Dixon dunk, that the team would nurse for the rest of the game. A three pointer by Brooks, who was slowly taking over the game, pushed the lead to 60-54 and a Council three, followed by another Dixon dunk upped the margin to nine with just over five to play.

Still, Northeastern, led by Allen, would not go quietly. The Huskies cut the lead to 69-65 on a jumper by Alex Harris and Northeastern had hope, but Marshon Brooks delivered the game's dagger with a shot clock beating, fall away three pointer with 1:19 left. The Huskies went into foul mode, but Brooks and Duke Mondy hit free throws down the stretch to seal PC's win and a Harris three at the buzzer provided the final margin.

In fact, Brooks led the way with 27 points and chipped in 8 boards and 3 blocks. Dixon had a great bounce-back game with 14 points, 12 boards and 5 blocks and Council had 15 points, 6 assists and 8 rebounds. The Friars crushed Northeastern 47-27 on the glass and held the Huskies to 33% shooting in the second half.

Next up for PC is the annual in-state rivalry game with URI on Saturday at 4:00 at the Dunk. The Rams have had a week off and will enter with a 5-2 record and their usual passion. Delray James is a tough matchup for PC and a great player, but he can be a trick-or-treat type of player. One thing for Friar fans to keep a close eye on: when sophomore guard Akeem Richmond plays well, i.e. shoots well, the Rams are tough. When he doesn't, URI tends to struggle.

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