Friars Hopes Remain Bullish

For the Friars and their fans alike, the game against the South Florida Bulls was a "must win" by every definition if they had designs on a postseason. To their credit, Providence took care of business and pounded a worn down South Florida team by the score of 77-56.

While NBA scouts were in the house to see double-double man Solomon Jones, the 6-foot-10 senior from South Florida, it was center Randall Hanke who really put on the show. Hanke completely outplayed Jones and fought out of a slump to the tune of 22 points and 7 rebounds only 23 minutes of play. That appeared to be more than enough as Hanke and the Friars led 41-22 at halftime, leaving Herb Hill (7pts. 7rbs) to handle the mop up duty for most of the second half.

USF's Jones, who required stitches at halftime for a mouth injury sustained in the first half, also struggled with foul trouble all game, resulting in only 25 minutes of play and a paltry three points and three rebounds. Bulls' coach Bob McCallum also alluded to a banged up knee that Jones has been playing on since practice on Sunday.

The only bright spot for USF was the three point shooting of James Holmes and Melvin Buckley, who combined for a season-high 9 three point shots in the game. A flurry of those 3 pointers led to a run in the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half, cutting the Friar lead to 9 points.

However, Donnie McGrath heated up in the 2nd half, after missing two days of practice this week, and led a Providence counter punch which pushed the lead back to twenty points. McGrath's 20 point game of jump shots and drives to the basket was his fourth twenty point or more outing of the year. Geoff McDermott had another monster game on the backboards, as his game high 11 rebounds pushed his team high rebounding average to 8.7 rebounds per game. McDermott is now in fifth place in the Big East in rebounding, an impressive statistic for a 6'7 freshman.

The Friars return to action on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at # 9 Pittsburgh. While a win at the Pete looks like a tall order for the Friars, they will likely need at least one more win this year to make conference tournament, and no opportunity for a victory can be squandered. The Friars led Pittsburgh throughout the first half of their first meeting in Providence, but the dominating inside play of Aaron Gray and timely 3 point shooting from Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin deflated and wore out a late Friars push in the second half.

In order to have any shot at a Top 10 upset on the road, the Friars will have to wear out Aaron Gray by getting Randall Hanke and Herb Hill to run the floor at every opportunity. While this may risk fatigue on the Friars themselves, it appears to be a better strategy than trying to match Gray's imposing physical play. The Friars are looking for their first win at the Peterson Recreational Center.

Wednesday night in the Big East, the Louisville Cardinals play a critical game when they host DePaul at Freedom Hall. Louisville announced that they will be playing without center David Padgett, who requires knee surgery and is done for the season. Depaul, who has struggled throughout the year, has some size which may present problems for the Cardinals. Louisville is currently at 4-8 in the Big East, behind the Friars and desperate for a victory at home. ( Depaul @ Louisville 9:00 PM Louisville, Ky. TV: ESPNU )

Elsewhere, Rutgers plays at Georgetown in a game that the Scarlet Knights will be hard pressed to win. Georgetown plays a methodical style, tough defense, and with a huge advantage at center in 7ft. center Roy Hibbert, the Hoyas look to be heavy favorites in this game. Rutgers is currently at 5-8 and behind the Friars in the standings by virtue of a tie-breaker. (Rutgers @ Georgetown 7:30 PM Washington, D.C. TV: ESPN Classic)

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