Huskies Overwhelm Shorthanded Friars

The Providence College Friars went on the road again – this time to Storrs, Connecticut – and came up empty yet again, falling to the University of Connecticut, 75-57. The loss drops PC to 0-8 on the road this season, 14-11 overall and 3-9 in the Big East.

Offense on the road has been iffy all season for Providence, and playing short-handed only exacerbated an already bad situation. On Friday, word leaked out that freshman guard Gerard Coleman, averaging 10.4 ppg, was likely to miss Sunday's game against the Huskies. The news was confirmed late Saturday, with the school terming it "his failure to fulfill his responsibilities as a student-athlete." A clear indication would be academic issues, and Coleman's return this season is clearly up in the air.

Without Coleman, Duke Mondy stepped into the starting lineup, but that only made a short bench even shorter. Against a team like Connecticut, with quality depth, playing on its home floor, a short bench is a killer in a forty minute game.

Part of the problem for Providence is that star scorer Marshon Brooks gets too little help. That hurts on several fronts. One, it makes it easy for teams to focus on Brooks and gang guard him. Two, as Brooks sees that putting up points is falling squarely on his shoulders, he becomes more apt to force things and take bad shots. For the game, Brooks scored 25 points, but shot just 7-22 from the floor and 1-8 from three.

The only other double figure scorer for PC was Bryce Cotton. The freshman guard poured in 10 first half points, and combined with Brooks' 13, the Friars hung tough for a half. But Cotton would go scoreless in the second half, and with no one else stepping up, UConn was able to open things up as PC scored a season-low 57 points.

PC broke out of the gate fast, as Mondy hit an opening three and Brooks and Cotton scored early, giving the Friars a 9-4 lead, and two Brooks' free throws and a dunk made it 22-16 with just over six minutes to play in the half. An early bad sign emerged though. Kemba Walker, who had struggled with his shooting eye in Big East play, appeared to be on, and when he wasn't scoring, he was passing to Jamal Coombs-McDaniel for easy shots inside against a Friar defense that was clearly keying on Walker.

Two more free throws by Brooks and a short jumper by Cotton had PC up 30-26, but the Friars failed to score in the last two minutes of the half. Meanwhile, Coombs-McDaniel poured in six points on a lay-up, a dunk and two free throws and UConn led 33-30 at the half.

The Friars hung with Connecticut for the first six minutes of the second half as both teams struggled to score. Two Brooks' free throws knotted the score at 41-all, and then UConn made its run. In a quick three minute spurt, the Huskies grabbed a 55-44 lead that culminated with a Shabazz Napier three. Missed jump shots and lay-ups by Brooks, Cotton and Vincent Council contributed to the run, as the Friars let their guard down.

PC fought back but could never get the margin lower than seven. Two Bilal Dixon free throws made it 60-53, but Jeremy Lamb answered with a three. Two Brooks' free throws cut the gap to 63-55 with five minutes left, but Coombs-McDaniel hit another lay-up and Walker drilled a three, wrapped around two Brooks' turnovers, and UConn pulled away to win comfortably.

For the game, Walker scored 22 points on an economical 7-10 shooting and had 7 assists, but McCoombs-McDaniel stole the show with a career high 25 points on 10-17 shooting. Noteworthy, because the sophomore had never scored more than 10 points in a game. Against PC, though, with the defense focusing on Walker, he found room to get behind his defenders for easy, close-in shots. Meanwhile, Alex Oriakhi had just 4 points and 6 rebounds, but young center Charles Okwandu hurt PC with 6 points and 11 rebounds. Overall, UConn's size was a factor.

For the Friars, somewhat surprisingly, Dixon and Kadeem Batts each played just 13 minutes against the big Huskies. Dixon showed signs of life with 8 points and 6 boards, but Batts was clearly bothered by the UConn big men, chipping in just 6 points and 4 rebounds.

The big problem for PC, though, was the play of point guard Vincent Council. Without Coleman, the Friars critically need a second scorer in the line-up, and Council is now 0-17 from the floor in his last two games. It's very unusual for Council to not be able to convert at least a few lay-ups. In addition, he seems to have lost confidence in his free throw shooting, going 0-4 against UConn. Hard to believe that this is the same player who shot 16-16 from the line against Wyoming earlier this season. Hounded relentlessly by Walker and Napier, Council had 9 assists but looked lost at times.

Now the Friars return home for three straight home games, starting Thursday with a 9:00 tip against DePaul. Four of the final six games are at home. Even if Coleman remains unavailable, it is critical for the hopes of a winning season record for PC to start grabbing some home wins.

Scout Friars Top Stories