Second Half Run Lifts Pitt over PC

While the Friars have not looked comfortable on the road all year, fans may have temporarily forgotten that as PC led for a good portion of the first 20 minutes at Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for the Friars, a good 1st half was quickly forgotten when the Panthers turned up their defense in the 2nd half, powering Pitt on a 21-4 run that resulted in another home victory over Providence, 82-63.

Providence knew that a strong start was critical to have any chance against Jamie Dixon and his Pittsburgh Panthers, and the Friars delivered by making their first 5 shots from the field, including three 3 point field goals by Jeff Xavier. While the Friars early shooting was impressive, Pittsburgh appeared to have no trouble scoring points either, as the Panthers were only down 1 point at the 15 minute mark. While Pitt wasn't shooting quite as well as the Friars, they made up for it by out rebounding Providence and taking advantage of some unforced Friar turnovers.

Tim Welsh spent the last ten minutes of the first half mixing the Friar man to man defense with some zone, in hopes of slowing down a Pittsburgh attack that made it look too easy. The Providence defenses were largely inadequate no matter the scheme, and Pittsburgh's passing has always the Friars fits for a number of years now.

Offensively, Providence got a boost from freshman Marshon Brooks, who scored 6 straight points off the bench to give PC a four point lead at the 8 minute mark. However, that lead would be short lived, as Friar turnovers and the Pittsburgh transition offense really exploited the Friars to take a 5 point lead at the half. Providence committed 8 first half turnovers to only 3 by Pittsburgh. The Panthers led 42-37 at the half.

To start the 2nd half, the Friars scored the first basket to get within three points, but it would be the closest they would be for the remainder of the game. Jamie Dixon told his team at halftime that the game would be won on defense, and the Panthers responded, totally shutting down PC's three point attack and some of the pick and rolls and screen and curls the Friars were succeeding with in the first half. Lead by Sam Young (22 pts) Ronald Ramon (15 pts), and DeJuan Blair (15 pts),

Pittsburgh went on a monster run combining transition offense with scoring from patient offensive sets in the half court. Pittsburgh did a good job of exploiting the middle of the PC zone with their passing. The Panthers opened up the half on an impressive 21-4 run, leading 57-41 by the 13 minute mark.

Providence's offense struggled throughout much of the 2nd half, and the Friar frustrations led to the too often seen ill advised three point shots with very little inside game. Providence knew it had to produce inside to win, with the hope of getting Blair in foul trouble. It never really happened, as not Panther got in foul trouble. Matters weren't helped by the fact that Jon Kale was suspended for a second game, Ray Hall was a non-factor on offense, and Randall Hanke, while scoring 10 points, only took seven shots for the game.

The one major bright spot for the Friars in this game was Marshon Brooks, who had his best game of the year scoring a team leading 15 points in only 18 minutes of play. Brooks scored in a variety of ways, hitting 3 pointers, jump shots in the lane, and a couple of athletic drives to the hoop. As many have speculated, Marshon Brooks has the potential to be an excellent player at Providence on both sides of the ball, provided he can continue to add muscle and improve his ability to involve others in the flow of the offense.

The Friars have now fallen to 13-11, and 4-8 in the Big East. This is a very difficult stretch for PC, as they now face #23 Louisville on Saturday at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Each game at this point is critical, as the belief is that Providence will at least need two more wins to make the Big East Tournament. In order for the Friars to have a chance for the upset, it's critical that they get more physical on the interior on both ends of the floor. They will need Jon Kale to bounce back into action and provide some added rebounding, and Randall Hanke will have to demonstrate more aggressiveness on both ends of the floor.

Providence also will have to protect the ball against the Louisville full court press. If the Friars can keep it close on the back boards, and limit the offensive turnovers, PC may be able to out score Louisville with some good shooting at home. The key will be for Providence to be aggressive and not wilt under Louisville's pressure. The game is Saturday at 2 pm, and will be televised on ESPN.

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