This game was a tale of two halves… defense in the first half, and offense in the second half. Out of the gate, the Friars struggled to score and struggled to run any semblence of a half court offense. Harvard is a team that loves to run and raced to a 15-9 lead over the first eight minutes of the game. "Harvard's a perky team," said Tim Welsh. "At times we broke down defensively and let them gap us a little."
Three pointers by Brian McKenzie and Jeff Xavier jump started PC's offense and the Friars led 39-29 at the half. Still, most of PC's offense during the early part of the first half had come on one-on-one play, and most of it was from the outside.
In the second half, PC methodically pulled away. A three point explosion by Jeff Xavier (7-11 threes, 27 points) jumped the lead from ten points to over twenty points and although Harvard narrowed the gap to fourteen, the Friars were never seriously challenged. Along with PC's 54 second half points came a softening defensively as well, and the Crimson put up 41 points of their own, which visibly frustrated Welsh at times.
• Jeff Xavier was outstanding in this contest. Along with his usual pesky on the ball defense, Xavier had his best offensive game of the season, by far, shooting 10-15. "This was a great homecoming for Jeff," said Welsh. "Jeff felt bad about his performance against Miami. He had played well against Arkansas. We sat together and broke down film of the Miami game and we pointed out all the bad shots that we took. Some of it was good defense, but we rushed against Miami. Some of that is the year off that he had. He just plays at such a high level of intensity."
• The performance of PC's big men continues to be a big concern and it may be a season long problem. Harvard is a small team, both height-wise and bulk-wise, yet the Crimson battled Providence to an even 30-30 points in the paint. In addition, although PC outrebounded Harvard 33-18, PC's post presence was negligible. "We're going to take a big step up in the next couple of weeks," said Welsh. "So we've got to get our big guys more involved. We've got to improve our rebounding. Playing small ball is nice and I'll do it, but we need someone who can be a force in the paint."
• What has happened to Jonathan Kale? All summer we heard about Kale's improvement and he played that way in Italy, averaging over 14 ppg and 9 rpg… yet he has been invisible for most of the first four games. More than that, Kale has always been an intense, emotional leader for the Friars, and that high energy has been missing from his game. Against Harvard, Kale started, played six minutes, saw Harvard outjump him for rebounds from behind, didn't run back on defense, and was benched for the rest of the half. He never played in the second half. "We can sit older guys down now and let them observe, " Welsh commented. "They have to know that our younger guys are chomping at their toes. Guys have to understand their roles may change from game to game."
• Sharaud Curry was on the bench and out of his boot, but Welsh surprised many in the postgame press conference when he remarked, "We'll add Sharaud back in a couple of weeks and hopefully he'll be playing by Christmas." Most had expected Curry to be back playing sooner than that, but PC may be playing it smart by not rushing their point guard back.
• With Randall Hanke still struggling to get back to where he was, PC's most effective frontcourt players against Harvard were Jamine Peterson and Ray Hall. Hall played well, with five boards and 4 points, and generally defended well against the much smaller Crimson. Peterson, meanwhile, flashed his athletic ability, jumping over players for offensive rebounds and finishing well. He ended with 11 points and 4 rebounds.
• If the Friars can get a game where they put their offense together with their defense for a full forty, they'll be tough. While PC shot 58% for the game and racked up 93 points with Geoff McDermott netting only 6 and Weyinmi Efejuku scoring just 4, they allowed Harvard to shoot at a 55% clip. McDermott, in particular, was frustrated, a victim of several ticky-tack calls that put him on the bench for long periods of time. In the more physical Big East, those calls don't get made… probably.
• Several recruits were at the game, including members of Northfield Mt. Hermon, including 6'4 Mike Marra and Matt Brown. 6'6 Forward Kyle Casey was also present with his mom.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Who else but Xavier? Had he hit one of his last two three point attempts, he'd have ended with 30 points. Brian McKenzie, with 20 points on 7-10 shooting, deserves a shout out here too.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Xavier is the choice here too,with four steals and pretty good defense on Drew Housman. In addition, PC took four charges.
Friars Top Crimson, 93-70
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