PC Suffers A Brown-Out

The Brown University Bears waltzed into Friartown and left with a stunning 51-41 verdict over Providence. With the loss, the Friars fell to 1-1 on the season with a game on tap against nationally-ranked Boston College, but even worse, serious questions were raised.

You have to go back quite a ways to find a game in which Providence performed worse offensively. Several games from the dismal 1999-00 season spring to mind, including a dreadful 45-40 win over BC, but in many ways, this game stands alone.

As a longtime Friar observer remarked after the game, "Perception-wise, this game might be the worse loss in Tim Welsh's tenure." Certainly, this loss joins a number of other disappointing non-conference losses, including games against Maine in 2000-01, Holy Cross and Central Connecticut in 1999-00 and Brown in 2001-02. This loss might vault to the top of that list.

How bad were the Friars?

As far as highlights in this game… there were none for Providence. No Friar played especially well, and no aspect of the Friars' game – neither offense, defense or rebounding was well executed. Well, there might be one highlight… PC probably won't face a team that plays the same style of ball as Brown again this season.

There's no question that Brown played an inspired game. They played very well, executed their game plan to perfection, and frustrated the Friars. And, oh yeah, the Bruins deserved to win this game.

But the Friars were willing accomplices. They stared at Brown's zone defense as if it were a Sudoku puzzle. And it never got any better. As player after player threw up errant threes, Brown packed the zone tighter and dared PC to beat them from the outside. Instead of attacking gaps, PC resorted to ill-advised long range hoists that wasted valuable possessions.

"I told our guys we wouldn't see one second of man to man," said Tim Welsh. "We worked on the zone. It was just strange the way we were attacking. It was like we were standing upright. We gave them a lot of different looks… we played the two big guys, we fanned our guards, we tried to loosen the perimeter. They just play a very good switching, matchup zone. We threw the kitchen sink at them in terms of our playbook."

In that case, additions to the playbook might be necessary as far as attacking zones. Too often, PC's guards picked up their dribble far from the basket and the Friars offense was forced to start from thirty feet away. Players were standing around on offense and not moving. What made it even more bizarre was that Brown wasn't playing a particularly aggressive, pressure defense. Yet, getting the ball inside was a puzzle that PC never quite solved.

Right from the start, the Friars looked flat on both offense and defense. Did PC take Brown lightly after seeing the Bears blown out by Navy, 70-47? "I showed the guys the Michigan State tape," said Welsh. "I told them we had to get on our toes. That was anyone's ballgame with five minutes to go. Michigan State made some threes at the end or they would have gotten clipped, too."

Offensively, Brown played like a typical Princeton-style team, not surprising since new head coach Craig Robinson is an ex-Princeton player. They took the air out of the ball, ran down the shot clock, cut to the basket, ran backdoor plays, and created switches that resulted in easy baskets. Non-athletic players, like Mark McAndrew and big man Nathan Eads gave the Friars fits with open drives to the hoop or easy layups.

"If we had fast, athletic guys, we'd run up and down the floor, too," said Robinson. "But you've got to play with the cards you've been dealt."

Despite a size advantage, PC only outrebounded the Bears by a 26-24 margin and only had seven offensive rebounds. The Friars had too many wasted sets where they didn't even get a shot at the basket, fumbled away too many rebounds and had too many one shot-and-dones. "We were in there battling, but they came up with every rebound," said Welsh. "That's called getting outplayed."

Then there was the shooting. After hitting 53% in the first half, PC shot just 4-22 (18%) in the second half, and scored just 14 points. The Friars went the last 7:57 without a field goal, missing their final eleven attempts from the floor, most of those left short. "You can't score 14 points in a half, at any level, and expect to win," Welsh lamented. "The more misses, the more they collapsed their defense. We couldn't buy a three. We were back on our heels and got more tentative as the game wore on. You've got to make plays. That's what Michigan State did. I saw some of our guys passing up shots that they normally would have taken, and that's when I got nervous. I thought we had solved it in the last five minutes of the first half."

Indeed, after a sluggish start, PC had managed to open up a 27-19 halftime lead, but the Friars reverted back to their sluggish ways early in the second half. In fact, only some improbable drives into the gaps and floating layups by Sharaud Curry (team-high 14 points) kept PC in the lead for as long as they were. Herbert Hill and Geoff McDermott were never really factors inside or on the glass, and PC's other wing players kept firing it up and missing. PC was 1-14 from three in the game. Weyinmi Efejuku hit the only three, early in the first half. He was 0-6 on his other field goal attempts.

Welsh made it a point to reiterate that it's a long season, but losses like this one are what put pinpricks in your season. Games like these have to be won, because enough pinpricks can deflate your whole season. Fans booing as they stream towards the exits in the second game of the season is never a good sign. And while several preseason publications erroneously, in the opinion of this writer, picked Tim Welsh as a coach on the hot seat, losses like this one certainly make the seat a little more toasty.

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