Friars Suffer Overtime Loss at ND

Had they avoided a couple critical turnovers or made some free throws to match their strong defensive effort, Providence would have walked out of the Joyce Center with a big road win. Instead, the Friars let Notre Dame to escape to overtime in South Bend, and PC felt the sting of their third straight loss, losing 81 74 at Notre Dame.

Beating the Fighting Irish in South Bend has been extremely difficult for any opponent as of late, as Notre Dame had won 31 in a row at the Joyce Center. Still, with 36 seconds to go in the contest, Providence had a two point lead and free throw attempts that would have put them up four. Unfortunately, some of the specters that have haunted them all season managed to show themselves again, as Providence had two critical turnovers and missed some free throws that could have won the game. Missed free throws have arguably cost Providence three games this year, and when games get late and tight, the absence of Sharaud Curry's ball handling and excellent free throw shooting gets magnified .

This would have been an ironic victory for the Friars, because it lacked the hot three point shooting that has marked most Providence victories. The conventional thinking was that Providence would struggle to defend Notre Dame, and that it would have required great three point shooting to win.

The fact is, Providence was largely ineffective from the three point line (8-33), and needed good defense, interior scoring, and rebounding to stay in the game. Surprisingly, after the first 8 minutes, Providence switch to a man to man defense, reversed the ball better, scored inside, and hit the backboards. Once Providence switched out of zone, Jeff Xavier did a tremendous job shutting down sharpshooter Kyle McAlarney ( 8pts). Providence played with great intensity for much of the contest and despite trailing for much of the game, and staying close enough to nearly steal one on the road.

Providence managed to out rebound Notre Dame by ten, (48 38) and also had more points in the interior at 36 26. Providence shot 41 percent field, but had to endure an 8 for 33 performance from the 3 point line and 6 of 16 shooting from the free throw line. Notre Dame converted 44 % from the field and shot 5 of 6 from the field in overtime to seal the home victory.

Providence showed some different looks against Notre Dame, and that included a Dwain Williams start (20pts) over Weyinme Efejuku, and big minutes for Ray Hall (25min), who defensively slowed down the Irish offense in the paint and gave the Friars some rebounding and interior scoring.

Hall finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds, and appeared to thrive against the bulky but not overly quick Irish front court. Obviously, his Achilles heel was free throw shooting, where the foul line was a house of horrors for the sophomore.(2-10) Even one Hall free throw late might have won the game for PC in regulation. Dwain Williams certainly didn't have a great shooting night (6-20), but he defended solidly and hit enough big shots to keep Providence in the game.

When Geoff McDermott drew a critical charge on Tory Jackson and followed it up with a driving lay up to tie the game at 59, it seemed like he could have been the game's hero.(10pts, 8rbs, 3blks) Instead, as been sometimes been the case, McDermott may have tried to do too much for his team late, and followed it up by making an ill advised pass that was stolen for a score and later got stripped when dribbling to set up a game winning shot at the end of regulation.

Facing a record of 3-5 in the Big East, Providence has now dug themselves a hole and is struggling right now to stay in the top 12 of the conference. However, they have only played three home league game thus far, and with solid play going forward, they could make up ground quickly over the next three games.

If they maintain the effort on both ends that they showed at Notre Dame and find a way to improve their free throw shooting, there is still time to steady the ship. However, there really is no more time for growing pains without Sharaud Curry, and if Providence doesn't take advantage of opportunities to win in at least the next three games, they likely will find themselves with little to play for in March.

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