Friars Stomp San Diego State

Christmas blues? What Christmas blues? It took the Friars about six minutes to shake off the holiday rust, and when they did, they put a convincing hurting on the pick to win the Mountain West conference, San Diego State, beating the Aztecs 80-65, improving to 6-4 with their third straight win.

When SDSU raced out to a 21-11 lead about six minutes in, the Friars Tim Welsh knew that something had to change. Coming out of a timeout, Welsh switched from a zone to a man-to-man defense, and Providence quickly came alive.

Young teams have growing pains, and after the team's previous game against Yale, Welsh proclaimed the zone as the defense that would become the staple of this year's team. But against a quick, athletic Aztec squad, the zone had major problems finding the open shooters, and sharpshooters like Brandon Heath and Kyle Spain made them pay.

The switch to man-to-man against the taller Aztecs looked like a recipe for disaster, but instead, PC played aggressive in your face defense and shut the Tecs down. When Randall Hanke struggled against the tall and strong SDSU frontline, freshman Jonathan Kale came in and saw his first extended action of the season, and turned in a monster game with 15 points and 12 boards, eight on the offensive glass.

Kale's fellow freshmen provided ample assistance. Geoff McDermott had another double-double, with 15 points and 13 boards; Sharaud Curry had 13 points, including several key hoops; and Weyinmi Efejuku chipped in with 14 points, which included a number of fearless drives to the hoop that drew fouls.

In addition, senior Donnie McGrath played a gutty game, frustrating Heath defensively in the second half, and bombing away for 15 points of his own, a couple of jumpers launched in Heath's face.

After trailing by eleven, the Friars clawed to a 36-34 halftime lead, and then methodically pulled away in the second half. San Diego State looked out of gas midway through the final period, but the Friars relentless effort had a lot to do with that. PC outrebounded the taller Aztecs by an astounding 49-32 margin.

NOTES

• McGrath appeared to pull a muscle in his left side with about eight minutes to go. He tried to continue for one series, but had to leave the game and head for the lockerroom. He was back out for the postgame handshakes, and will have a week to heal before PC's next contest.

• Naturally, the talk of the building was the DeSean White situation. White's departure took m any by surprise, and leaves the Friars painfully thin. An unnamed source told us that White was "50-50 to return", and that the coaching staff had spoken to him more than once over the past couple of days. The situation will bear watching, but the staff and players would welcome him back.

EXCERPTS FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE

"The kids all like DeSean... I spoke with him today, and I told him I'm there for him. He has some personal things, he has to do the best thing for him and his family right now. It's tough when you're 19... most of us haven't been faced with these kinds of things when we were 19. I wish he was here, but he has to handle some things at home first before he can think about coming back to school. We would welcome him back."

"A lot of positives tonight. The thing I take from this is that I told our guys this was like a Big East game. Heath is a bigtime scorer. Spain is a primetime player. I told our guys they had to wake up. These guys were picked to win their league. This isn't the minors. This is a real game. They're a high major program."

"I think our guys were stunned at the beginning. I thought we played at a high level after the first six minutes. We played at a consistent level. We came back and took control of the game."

"Our defense is improving. This is the third game in a row that we've held our opponent to under forty per cent shooting. We outrebounded them and they were plus six for the season coming in. Rebounding is part of defense, so I think the defense is coming along."
"Donnie did a great job on Heath in the second half. Thing is, someone different steps up every night. Tonight it was Jon. I've talked a lot to him. I told him his minutes would come. He came to my office last week, and a lot of kids would ask, Coach, what do I need to do to play more?… which is certainly a question that's allowed, and that freshmen often ask. Instead, he said to me, Coach, don't lose confidence in me, I'm going to make you want to play me. That's an outstanding attitude."

"Randall sat for a long time in the second half, but he was clapping for Jon and was the first one to chest-bump him when he came out. Everyone in the lockerroom is clapping for Jon. We have a lot of options now."

"I think Jon hit a five to six week wall in late October, November where he lost a little spark. He was outplaying the big guys in practice in early October. Sometimes it takes some guys a little longer. I hope tonight was his coming out party."

"Balance is something we always strive for. People asked how we were going to replace Ryan Gomes' points, well no one guy is going to replace Ryan, but we replace him with five guys. We had five guys in double figures tonight and our season leading scorer had four points."

"When you recruit kids from good programs, the learning curve is expedited. They still make plays that drain the blood from my face, but by the time we get to the league, we won't have any deer in the headlights look. We're playing good teams."

"San Diego State's athleticism stunned us early. Not to take anything away from our last opponent (Yale), but it was nothing like this. I thought we could zone these guy early… their numbers suggested that.. but we weren't reacting well. Once we went to man, we were okay."

Scout Friars Top Stories