Sometimes the game coming off exam break isn't the toughest one you'll play. Kids tend to have a lot of energy and really want to get back on the court. Sometimes the game right before a holiday, against a perceived lesser opponent, can be even tougher to play.
Providence faced that situation when it took on Harvard a couple of days before Christmas. The Friars came out with a real sense of purpose, determined to end this one early, but lapsed into somewhat of a second half fog, defensively.
"Defense has become an issue over the past couple of weeks," said Tim Welsh. "There's been some slippage. You can't give up more than 70 points in Big East games if you expect to win. Before we go to Florida, we have to tighten the screws defensively. Whether its foul trouble or just slow to get to our spots, our man to man wasn't very good. I think when we get to the meat of our schedule, zone will be our primary defense."
PC came out and moved the ball beautifully on their first possessions. With Harvard sitting back in a passive zone, PC flashed an offense that executed crisp, sharp passes, all designed to find the open man. In fact, in the early going, it may have been the Friars best exhibition of passing in the young season.
Great ball movement and dynamic shooting led to a quick PC lead. PC was up 18-10, before some sloppy play and a more aggressive Harvard zone led to a three pointer by Brad Unger that cut the lead to 23-20. But PC spurted again, moving out to leads of 34-22 after a three by Weyinmi Efejuku, 40-29 after a Herbert Hill layup, and 47-31 after another three by Efejuku.
A corner jumper by Brian McKenzie with five seconds left gave PC its biggest lead, and the Friars went into halftime leading 52-34. On the plus side, PC had shot 65.6% in the first half, with 15 assists on 21 baskets. On the negative side, Harvard had also shot well, at 56%.
The second half figured to be twenty minutes of garbage time, but Harvard wouldn't allow that. To the Crimson's credit, they came out with a purpose and didn't back down from their huge deficit. On the PC side, the offense continued to purr, but there was a definite letdown on defense.
In the second half, Tim Welsh substituted liberally. At one point, he had three freshmen guards in the lineup at the same time – Dwain Williams, Jamal Barney and McKenzie – and PC resorted to throwing up too many threes. Also, PC spent most of the second half in man-to-man defense, which frankly, isn't very good right now… but Welsh has to play man-to-man if its going to improve.
The Friars lead peaked at 73-47 with 11:56 to play after a Jon Kale layup, and then Harvard started to peck away. The Crimson repeatedly drove the lane and got the ball to the rim, scoring layup after layup, as Welsh beseeched his troops to stop the penetration. While PC was missing threes, Jim Goffredo heated up and Harvard closed the gap to 73-60 with 8:23 left.
While PC was able to maintain a double digit lead for the next six minutes, the Crimson cut the lead to single figures, at 91-83 with 1:49 left on free throws by Drew Housman. The closest that Harvard would get would be 97-90 but a blocking foul by Housman on a close call on a drive by Sharaud Curry put Curry on the line and he iced it with two free throws. Still, in the last ten minutes of the game, it felt as though Harvard didn't miss a shot, and got to the basket or the foul line at will. For the game, PC shot almost 60%, but Harvard shot 56.5%.
Two players stood out for the Friars. Weyinmi Efejuku continues to show incredible improvement from his freshman year, and has become an absolute stud. His outside shooting is greatly improved, which only serves to aid his acrobatic drives to the basket. He finished with 26 points, on 9-13 shooting, 4 rebounds and 4-6 three pointers.
"Weyinmi and Sharaud continue to score at will," said Welsh. "They do a great job running the team. Weyinmi woke up in the GW game and hasn't looked back. He watches a lot of tape, he's a real student of the game. Our offense is really good. We have balance, but we also have a lot of ways to score, which I really like."
Geoff McDermott flat out fills a stat sheet. McDermott had the Friars first triple-double since Karim Shabazz against LIU, back on December 27, 1999, and only the 8th triple-double in PC history. He had 12 points, 11 rebounds, and a career high 10 assists.
Ray Hall had a boot on, due to an ankle sprain… The crowd was listed as 7156, but that had to be tickets sold, not fannies in the seats… PC had an impressive 28 assists versus 17 turnovers… The Friars had 54 points in the paint…. PC outrebounded Harvard 37-22, with 13 offensive boards… This was PC's first 100 point game since beating Maine 104-74 on December 21, 2004.
Providence Races Past the Crimson
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