Friars Turn Back Crusaders

Providence once again showed their mettle against a solid opponent and demonstrated the ability to convincingly turn back a comeback run by Holy Cross in a 77-68 Friar victory at the Dunk.

The renewal of an old regional rivalry like Providence – Holy Cross always brings a bit of trepidation for fans because no one really knows what to expect. Frankly, the first fifteen minutes of this one was a bit of a mismatch. Holy Cross came out a little flat from the exam break, and the Friars took full advantage by building a 34-16 lead with 6 minutes to go in the first half. Providence showed they clearly improved their half court ball movement over the break, and kept the Holy Cross defense out of position on a regular basis.

The Friars also got their transition game going early, which led to a lot of easy baskets for players like Weyinme Efejuku (21 points). While a Providence man to man defense worked well for most of the first half, Holy Cross seemed to get their legs back in the last six minutes and started what would turn out to be a short lived but impressive comeback.

The Friar man to man defense is mediocre at best, but it can be successful in stretches as long as the PC offense doesn't stall and give an opponent confidence. That is really what happened to spark the Holy Cross comeback. The Friar offense stalled with lateral perimeter passing late in the first half, and it led to turnovers and some play making from some of the Crusaders player not named Tim Clifford (21pts). Clifford was impressive in this one, and the big center took full advantage of the fact that Ray Hall had an injured ankle and was basically unavailable to check him. He got the best of Herb Hill in the post, in large part because he can both post up and hit the mid-range jumper, creating space for himself.

With players like Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas joining Clifford in a spirited comeback, the Crusaders got all the way back to within one point of the Friars at 46-45 with 14:50 to go in the game. However, Sharaud Curry made sure that was as close as they would get.

While Weyinme Efejuku led the Friars in scoring in impressive fashion with a combination of three pointers and crowd pleasing dunks, it was Sharaud Curry with 19 points who may have had the most timely baskets. When the score got tight, the Friar floor general calmly drilled a three pointer and followed it up with a tough layup, all but ending the Crusader comeback. They would not challenge again. Curry definitely didn't do it all alone though, having Geoff McDermott (11pts, 17rbs) as his anchor man all game to grab the big rebounds and make some tough baskets in the teeth of Crusader matchup zone. Has there been a tougher Friar since Michael Smith?

Had the Friars not turned the ball over so much (20 TO's), forcing errant entry passes and making turnovers passing out of double teams, the game would have been over early. Holy Cross actually made their comeback when they stepped up their defense and offensive pace (the latter not being part of their game plan). However, the Friars made shots when they needed to, shooting an impressive 47% from the 3pt. line, with a nice contribution off the bench from freshman Brian McKenzie who has finally shaken the injury/illness bug. Overall, another solid, resume building win over a scrappy mid major, who has a good shot to win the Patriot League.

Friar Notes:
The Friars are back at it on Friday against the Harvard Crimson. Harvard is coming off an impressive upset at America East standout Vermont. Ray Hall missed almost the entire game last night with a sprained ankle which he sustained stepping on another player's foot with five minutes left in practice. Hall is day to day. Jamal Barney did not play due to the need for outside shooting against the tight HC zone. If the Friars can manage to win out their remaining non-conference games (Harvard, FSU, Longwood), they have a good shot to sneak into top 25 at 11-2. Bill Clark, a 2007 swing man from Worcester Academy, was at the Dunk to take in the Friar win. The Friars also remain in the running for Notre Dame Prep's Jamine Peterson (NYC) and Darrien Pellum of Virginia, both 2007 small forwards.

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