Friars Break Through For First BE Win

Lessons learned. That might be the overriding theme of this basketball season for the Providence College Friars. And on Saturday, they may have learned how to win a close one.

Things were looking a little dicey for the Friars against DePaul, another Big East school desperate for wins. After roaring out to a ten point lead at halftime, the Friars found themselves trailing the Demons by four points with just over two and a half minutes remaining. Gut check time.

First, Sharaud Curry dished a pretty feed to Herbert Hill for a slam that cut DePaul's lead to 72-70. Then Marcus Heard missed a jumper that was rebounded by Weyinmi Efejuku. When Jon Kale grabbed a tough offensive rebound off a Donnie McGrath three point miss, Sammy Mejia (30 points… 20 in the second half) fouled Curry, and Curry calmly swished two free throws to knot the score at 72-all with 1:40 left.

DePaul rushed a shot that was rebounded by Geoff McDermott, and Donnie McGrath nailed a clutch long jumper from the right side to put PC up 74-72. Then came what Tim Welsh would call the play of the game.

The Friars switched to man to man, and Cliff Clinkscales drove the lane a little out of control. McDermott slid over and drew the charge under the basket with eighteen seconds to go. Heard quickly fouled Efejuku, and Weymi nailed both freebies for a 76-72 lead and the ball game, rendering Mejia's three pointer with a second left meaningless. PC grabs its first Big East win to improve to 1-4 in the conference and 8-8 overall.

The Friars looked to be in good shape throughout most of the first half as their offense was clicking. But PC stopped running their offense to start the second half, too often settling for quick, ill-advised shots that allowed DePaul to quickly trim the ten point halftime lead to four. The Blue Demons started getting to the line more often as well, and their free throw shooting was impeccible.

The game seemed to turn after PC took a 65-59 lead with seven minutes left, though. At that point, Mejia, a one-time PC recruiting target, took over. He scored DePaul's next eight points to put the Demons ahead, and set up the game's exciting final two and a half minutes.

NOTES: The sound system was appreciably better in the lower part of the arena… PC went back to their traditional white home unis… The crowd of 9,826 was a season high… Both Sammy Mejia and Cliff Clinkscales were one-time PC recruiting targets… PC placed five players in double figures… The Friars outrebounded a bigger DePaul team by 36-27… McDermott recorded his fourth double-double.

PRESS CONFERENCE

"When you're in this conference, you grow up quickly. It's not just the young guys. This is what conference games are all about. Going on the road, you learn quickly."

"There's no frustration on this team. Not with the coaches and not with the players. They're a fun group to work with. People ask me, Are you frustrated? Let me tell you, we lost to West Virginia, and ten minutes after they were coming up to me saying they were going to be ready for the next game."

"Tonight Mejia was a one man wrecking crew in the second half. We tried a lot of things to stop him, but he's tough."

"We trigger a lot of our offense with our defense, but we had some bad plays. We handed the ball to them twice for layups. I was proud of the way they hung in. We could have collapsed. But our team clamped down at the end."

It was a chess match tonight… zone, man to man, box and one… both teams trying to attack the other's weaknesses, and exploit their strengths. It was a great college game. Luckily Geoff didn't foul Mejia on the last play. I think my heart would have come out of my chest."

"We were in zone for awhile, then they started getting comfortable with it, so we switched to ma. We built our lead in the zone, but we also lost our lead in the zone. At the end, when they had the full shot clock, we went man. That's when you challenge your team, and go mano a mano against your opponent. They got into the gap and Geoff came over and drew the charge, which was the winning play of the game."

"They matched up a power forward on Herb which is a good matchup for us. Give our guys credit… they recognized this and looked for Herb."

"We had five guys in double figures. Jon comes in and plays 21 minutes and gets 7 rebounds. Sharaud ran the team perfectly in 37 minutes. You've got Randall, who is our leading scorer, not in at the end, but pumped up for Herb. And the rebounding was significant."

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