Friars Face Critical Home Stand

There was no place like home for the holidays, as the road thus far has been far less kind to the Friars who are 0-3 so far this year in true road games. Providence is hoping that a two game home stand gets them even in the conference and back some of the positive momentum that was lost in back to back road losses at Marquette and Depaul.

After a loss at Marquette where they were beaten badly in all facets, the Friars continued to struggle for a half at Depaul as well. While they would rebound after halftime with some inspired play and cut a 13 point deficit to 3, Providence could not hit the key shot to tie the game as Brian McKenzies 3 point shot rimmed out with 10 seconds to play. A Depaul steal off an inbounds pass sealed the game with 5 seconds left and Providence fell 70-65.

The Friars experienced a number of problems on the road, but the primary one was a lack of offensive cohesion in the absence of a point guard. With Sharaud Curry and Dwain Williams both unavailable due to injuries, the Friars have experienced significant stretches in games where the offense has been both unfocused and forced. At times, Providence has executed pick and rolls well, particularly though Geoff McDermott, but the drive and dish penetration that is essential in Big East play has been absent from the Friar attack.

Maintaining defense intensity has also been an issue. While Providence played some solid defense in the second half versus Depaul, they have rarely put together a 40 minute game of solid defense this year.

Unfortunately, when the Friars expend great energy on defense, their free throw shooting has tended to suffer as well. That seemed to be a factor in both the Depaul and Miami losses this year. When they get stops and steals, Providence gets easy offense at the other end, which is at a particular premium now given the struggles of the Friar half court offense. When they don't get stops, you get a Marquette game where the offense struggles, the defense is porous, and the game unravels quickly.

Rutgers and South Florida come into the Dunkin' Donuts Center on Wednesday and Saturday repectively. Rutgers is 0-2 in the Big East but has recently gotten back injured freshman point guard Corey Chandler who runs their offense well and can set up their leading scorer and big man, JR Inman. In addition, Rutgers rebounds the ball well and has out rebounded their opponents 9 times this season. The Scarlet Knights will attempt to come into Providence and scrap their way to win by getting physical with the Friars and outworking them for second chance baskets.

South Florida is 1-1 in the Big East so far and looks to be nowhere near the doormat of the past. The Bulls beat Rutgers 68-45 in their Big East opener in Tampa, and are lead by the dynamic duo of center Kentrell Gransberry and freshman standout Dominique Jones, who is leading USF in scoring at 16.7 points a game. The Friars have seen Gransberry before, and he can score, rebound, and block shots. South Florida will attempt to play a controlled tempo, while the Friars would be wise to get out in transition in order to succeed against the Bulls.

Tim Welsh has attempted in practice to use Brian McKenzie at the point guard spot in order to free up Geoff McDermott to take more shots. Dwain Williams' ankle continues to improve, and he should once again see some time on this home stand. That should provide some added shooting punch and perhaps a bit more stability to the offensive flow.

Expect Providence to substitute in freshmen Greedy Peterson, Alex Kellogg and Marshon Brooks in an attempt to keep fresh defensive legs and aggressiveness on the glass throughout both of these home games. Ray Hall may also be called upon to limit the scoring of the big man Gransberry.

These are must wins for the Friars if they have any designs to be a factor in the Big East this season. Providence has had an excellent home record the last two years, and there is every reason to believe they should play better at the Dunk they what fans witnessed last week.

The loss at Depaul was a real setback, and making up for it must begin on Wednesday evening.

Scout Friars Top Stories