At a breakfast hosted by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce in Warwick, men's basketball coaches Tim Welsh of PC and Jim Baron of URI spoke about the rivalry, the morning before the game.
"The thing about this game," said Welsh, "is that it is a hard fought, competitive game, but it's a cleanly played game. I've heard all the stories about the all the fights, all the lore, but that's not the way Jim or I coach. We play hard, it gets physical, but it's clean on both sides."
"We're looking forward to a competitive game," said Baron. "Every time we get together, it's a great game, and it's a great game for the fans of Rhode Island."
Both teams come into this game 3-1, yet both teams enter the game with differing concerns.
For Providence, the problem has been stopping opponents from scoring, and committing far too many turnovers. The defensive problems from last year have resurfaced, particularly on the interior, and against a team like URI, that could be fatal.
The Rams approach this game the way the United States military approached Normandy. Beating the Friars is of the utmost importance, and Rhody plays a grabbing, clutching, physical brand of basketball that turns almost any game into a rock fight. They hit the offensive glass hard for second and third chance opportunities, and they'll press the Friars and play aggressive man to man defense, hoping to force turnovers that they can convert into easy baskets.
Rhode Island's problem has been offense. In four games, Rhody has not scored more than 57 points, and they hung a 48-38 win on Brown. The Rams have trouble scoring, but they make scoring difficult for their opponents, too. Senior Dawan Robinson returned to action against Brown, but in two games back, he's scored nine and seven points and looked a step slow on offense.
"Dawan really hasn't played to his potential yet," said Baron. "Sometimes when a guy is out for a long time, it takes him a while to get going again, and you have to work him back in with the guys who have been playing. It's a delicate balancing act."
For Providence, the Wichita State game provided an excellent test for Welsh's young Friars. "You have to go on the road with your team to get them prepared," said Welsh. "We play three of our first four Big East games on the road, so the Wichita State game will help us prepare for the Rhode Island game, and the Wichita State and Rhode Island games will help us prepare for our Big East games."
At Wichita State, sophomore DeSean White played for the first time, and made an immediate impact, sinking four threes, and three in a 45-second span, to pull PC back into the game. "I wasn't planning on using DeSean," said Welsh. "He had only practiced once in four weeks, but the game was getting away from us, so I had to try something."
Providence should have an advantage inside, with hot-shooting Randall Hanke and Herbert Hill, coming off a career high 22 points, but PC also has to prove that it can keep the smaller, uber-intense Rams off the glass. On the other side, PC has brought the best out of Rhode Island offensively over the past few years, ands the Friars have to hope that players like Robinson, Jim Baron Jr., and Will Daniels, among others, don't pick this game to go off.
With Rhody's scoring problems, if the Friars can hit 70 points – a mark that they've reached in all four games this year – PC should score enough to win. However, that's assuming that the Friars also play effective defense, which consists of limiting Rhody to one shot and done, and shadowing Robinson and Baron on the perimeter. Do that, and the Friars should escape with a win… fail to do those things and Rhody could well end the day with some celebrating.
PC vs. URI: For The 116th Time
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