Friars Grab 3rd Top 25 Win

Playing against John Beilein's Mountaineers will always test the patience and execution of any team that faces them. With Providence playing some of their better zone defense of the year, and getting some timely 2nd half scoring, the Friars gutted out a 64-61 win over West Virginia for their third Top 25 victory of the season.

Tim Welsh knew he had to have his team ready to face the trapping West Virginia 1-3-1 zone that has caused problems for so many teams both this year and in the past. While Providence did move the ball well at times against the West Virginia zone, the Friars still had 8 first half turnovers. However, what really hurt the Friars in the first half was an in ability to make shots, particularly when the Mountaineers switched to man to man defense late in the half.

Providence only shot 30% from the field in first half, and Herb Hill and Brian McKenzie really struggled with their shot. West Virginia focused their attention on doubling Hill and taking Curry out of the game. Weyinme Efejuku was the lone bright spot on offense in the first half, but he too was limited to 7 points in the first 20 minutes. The Friars missed too many shots and also had no transition game, despite out rebounding West Virginia by 6. It all added up to a 30-25 deficit at halftime, and it could have been worse had the Friars not rebounded and defended solidly.

In the second half, West Virginia continued came out with the good play that they had finished the 1st half with and were up between 4 and 9 points until the 15 minute mark. Providence had to be tempted to forgo the zone at that point and try to play man to man defense in the hopes of giving the Mountaineers a different look and changing the game tempo.

"You look at their stats and you say how can you play zone against a team that shoots so many threes? Well, they make most of their threes out of their man offense…their man offense is so hard to guard with their cuts and back doors, they can get a back door or an open 3 on almost every possession…So, we decided to instead to extend our zone on them and take our chances on the inside against them…I think our guys did a pretty good job with it tonight." - Tim Welsh

Despite the early second half deficit, Tim Welsh felt that PC's problems were mainly on offense, and after sitting Herb Hill who was frustrated with being doubled, the Friar offense was suddenly jumpstarted with some spirited transition play from Weyinme Efejuku, Jon Kale, and Brian McKenzie. After twenty-five minutes of frustrating offensive play, the Friars began to execute their offense in a way that matched the defensive effort that had kept them in the game up until that point.

With just under 15 minutes to play, Providence found their transition game with some impressive scoring from Efejuku (24 pts 7 rbs), some athletic put backs from McKenzie (8 pts. 6 rbs), and some workman like production from Jon Kale in the post (9 pts 9r bs). While the final 10 minutes of the game would be a dogfight and close throughout, Herb Hill (12 pts 6 rbs) reentered the game refreshed and helped the Friars get some key baskets down the stretch to maintain a slim advantage that they would never relinquish.

The Providence 2nd half offense (58.3%) clearly was what got them control of the game, but it was a too often missing defensive effort and execution in the floor game that solved West Virginia's unique style of play and made the victory possible. Providence extended their perimeter pressure and West Virginia was forced to take their three point attempts farther away from the basket, all while the Friars won the battle on the boards. It all added up to a tough fought 64-61 victory and a much needed resume builder for a team still holding out hope for an NCAA bid.

Friar Notes:
While Geoff McDermott had a modest game in the scoring column (8 pts. 5 rbs), he played tough defense and dished 5 assists without committing a single turnover. That alone was a major contributing factor to Providence's margin of victory. The entire team was much better taking care of the ball in the 2nd half, and only had 13 turnovers for the entire game. Sharaud Curry played with a lingering cold and, combined with close attention from the WV defense, he was held in check offensively though his rebounding was very good. (3 pts 5 rbs) The Friars still have a lot more work to do in building an NCAA resume, and their resolve will again be tested on ‘Blackout Saturday' against Syracuse at the Dunkin' Donuts Center at Noon.

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