Disappointed as a team after a game that they felt had gotten away from them due to a poor first half on Wednesday at Boston College, Providence was determined not to end for the exam break on a down note. Yet, once again, the Friars played less than their best in the first half against an athletic Alabama squad that entered the game just 4-4, but was getting back their best big man, JaMychal Green.
PC's offense seemed out of sync for the first ten minutes of the first half. Kadeem Batts picked up two quick fouls in the first minute and a half of the game, and sub Ron Giplaye grabbed two quick fouls of his own. That forced the Friars to go with a smaller lineup and place Marshon Brooks at the four. While Brooks played well on offense, he had early problems keeping a very athletic Tony Mitchell and Chris Hines off the glass.
Alabama scored often inside and raced out to a 22-15 lead with nine minutes to play after a Hines layup. Brooks led a Friar comeback with a three and two free throws, wrapped around a Gerard Coleman drive and layup. PC built a 33-28 lead after a Vincent Council layup, but in the final three minutes, the Tide rallied behind Mitchell and Green, and when Trevor Releford buried two freebies, the two teams headed to the lockerroom tied 40-40. As in the BC game, the Friars defense had allowed the Tide to shoot a much higher percentage – 46% - than they had allowed for much of the season.
The second half has been very kind to PC all season, but on this day the Friars fell behind immediately. Alabama continued to slice through PC's defense and led 53-48 after a Releford layup. By this time, though, Bama was accumulating fouls. Mitchell had three by halftime, and all of the starters were picking up their third and fourth fouls. PC began to claw back on free throws and trailed by just 61-59 with just over nine minutes to go.
At that point, Brooks took the game over, scoring 12 points in a 19-3 Friar run over the next six minutes that ended with PC up 78-64. In that run, Brooks, Coleman and Duke Mondy all buried critical threes, and right through to the end of the game, Brooks nailed the coffin shut by hitting free throw after free throw.
For the game, Brooks tallied 33 points and grabbed 8 boards. Over the last five games Marshon has averaged 28.8 ppg and in this contest, he buried 13-16 free throws. In fact, he attempted more free throws alone than Alabama did as a team. And that is by design. Brooks has learned the importance of getting to the foul line, and his slinky moves inside and ability to hang in the air and draw fouls aids him there. In addition, he has become a reliable rebounder, using his length in grabbing crucial rebounds and helping out foul plagued big men Bilal Dixon and Batts inside. "The chemistry of this team has helped Marshon," said Keno Davis. "Vincent has helped Marshon become a better player, and I want to put the ball in his hands more as a coach."
Council struggled through a 2-10 shooting day, but dished 7 assists and consistently broke Bama's pressure in creating scoring opportunities. Clearly fatigued, the ten days off will be a major help to the young point guard. In fact, the whole team looked a bit tired early. "It's been demanding with so many games in so few days," said Davis. One area where Alabama will struggle this year is with their ball handling, and Mondy and Bryce Cotton picked the Tide's guard's pockets, with Mondy poking loose four steals. Alabama clearly struggled against PC's three quarter court traps.
One area where Keno Davis will be looking for improvement will be in keeping his big men out of foul trouble. Batts played just 11 minutes, and as his 7 points showed, could clearly be effective if he could stay on the court. Likewise, Dixon, who scored 6 points and had 8 boards, can be a monster if he can stay out of foul trouble which would allow him to play hard more consistently. As it was, the Friars were only outrebounded 38-37 by an athletic Alabama team that outscored PC 50-40 in the lane. "I thought Alabama was the best rebounding team we've faced so far," said Davis.
The stated goal was to reach 10 out of conference wins, and PC is there, with a chance to end the OOC schedule 11-2 if they take care of business against Sacred Heart on December 21. But first, the all-important first semester final exams.
PC Rolls Past The Tide
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