PC Bounces Back, Shreds Longwood

Providence would have preferred to play Longwood as their first opponent without point guard Sharaud Curry, but they still took advantage of their last non-conference game against the Lancers to rejuvenate their offense and establish some defense intensity to the tune of a 107-69 blowout at the Dunk Tuesday night.

Given that the competition Tuesday night was considerably less than what they will face against Big East teams, the Friars eclipsing the 100 point mark against Longwood was not all that impressive. Still, it did show that the Friar offense should not be completely lost without starting point guard Sharaud Curry on the floor. The four things that needed to be watched closely in this one were defense, turnovers, ball movement, and rebounding.

Defense has and will continue to be the primary concern of this Friar team, and it was clear from the early going that Tim Welsh was going to reward players who were willing to guard the basket aggressively. The Friars limited Longwood to 35% shooting from the field, and kept an opponent under 70 points for only the second time is six games. A primary beneficiary of the defense first mentality was Jamal Barney, who got off the bench and logged 16 minutes of tough defense, while managing to play his best offensive game of the year, putting up 13 points. Jon Kale also played aggressively on defense, logging 21 minutes and picking up a charge to go with one from usual defensive stalwart Geoff McDermott. One defensive area of concern was Longwood's three point shooting, which was a high 44% for the game. That needs to be improved on.

While backup point guard Dwain Williams and his teammates struggled mightily against Florida State to run their offense last week, they looked far more comfortable on the court with a week of practice under their belt. Against Florida State, Weyinme Efejuku was suffering through a strained tendon in his hand, and did not make a field goal in the game. When combined with Dwain Williams' first start at point guard, it made for a disaster in Tampa.

The Longwood game proved to be much better in this regard. Although the team still struggled with eleven first half turnovers, they settled down in the second half and only committed four more for a game total of fifteen. (12 were in the front court) Weyinme Efejuku looked healthier against Longwood, scoring 13 points and committing only two turnovers in 27 minutes. Dwain Williams also showed a nice floor game overall with only 1 turnover in 32 minutes. In order to lighten the load being placed on Dwain Williams, the rest of the team will be required to step up and help distribute the ball more than they may have in the past without the turnovers that were on display in the first half. While protecting the ball is still a major concern going into Big East games against two of the top three ball hawking teams in the conference, the Longwood game was an improvement.

As for ball movement, the second half proved to be much better than the first. While the Friar offense scored 41 points in the first half, they didn't create as many good shots as they should have, and when combined with the 11 turnovers, it allowed Longwood to hang around within ten points at the half. The second half displayed much crisper passing and better sharing of the ball, led by Dwain Williams (6 assists), Brian McKenzie (4), Herb Hill (4) and Geoff McDermott (3). This improved passing was also a product of the transition game igniting, as PC had 16 fast break points in the 2nd half as opposed to only 5 in the first twenty minutes. The better passing and transition game lead to some explosive offense and 66 second half points.

Although rebounding had been a strength of this Friar team, it seemed to be an area that had really been on the decline recently, starting with the Maine game. The Friars were very active on the backboards against Longwood, and out rebounded them 43-30 on the glass. Rebounding by Herb Hill (13), Jon Kale (8), and Weyinme Efejuku (5) was particularly strong, as evidenced by glass sweeper Geoff McDermott grabbing only 6 rebounds, which is low for the Big East leader. The Friars will have to continue to be very aggressive on the boards with the Big East wars upon them.

The Friars have a quick turnaround with their Big East opener on Thursday night against Marquette. Combined with another game Saturday against Seton Hall, it is the first time in 28 years that the Friars have started out the Big East with two straight home games. The Longwood game appeared to be just what the doctor ordered for the Friars, but we'll soon learn if the team is better for it when they face the Golden Eagles of Marquette.

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