Stingy Hoyas Overtake Providence, 68-58

For moments in Providence's battle with Georgetown, you could almost remember the good times. A near sellout crowd, cheering wildly, as the Friars seemed on the verge of another upset over a top ten opponent. And then, in the blink of an eye, reality took hold, in the form of a tough 68-58 loss.

In the first half, the Friars (13-13, 4-10) went toe to toe with the bigger, more talented, eigthth-ranked Hoyas (21-4, 11-3) and more than held their own. Sparked by an impressive performance by the suddenly rejuvenated Weyinmi Efejuku, who poured in 15 first half points, Providence battled Georgetown on even terms throughout the first twenty minutes. A 9-2 run put the Hoyas up 20-13, but PC stormed back with a 10-2 run of their own and took the lead on a Jeff Xavier three. After a Jonathan Wallace three put John Thompson's crew up 29-26, Efejuku answered with a three of his own and a Jamine Peterson free throw with 23 seconds left put PC up 30-29 at the break.

The second half started well for Providence. They scored out of the gate on a dunk by Brian McKenzie and opened a 41-35 lead with 15:51 to play on a rainbow three by Efejuku. Thompson called a timeout and things began to fall apart for the Friars.

Wallace missed a jumper but Geoff McDermott had his pocket picked, Patrick Ewing missed a layup, but Efejuku threw the ball away, Tyler Crawford banged home a three, Xavier threw a pass away, and Wallace arched a three home and the game was tied. Next Randall Hanke threw the ball out of bounds and Wallace put Georgetown up with another three. Roy Hibbert blocked Efejuku and Wallace hit a third three. Jon Kale missed a short jumper and Jeremiah Rivers knocked down a three, and just like that, in a span of four minutes, a six point deficit had turned into a 52-43 lead for the Hoyas.

"It's pretty easy to figure out, from a coaching standpoint, how its won or lost," said Tim Welsh. "They played very good defense. Offensively we had that one period where we were up five or six and we turned the ball over four out of five possessions and that was the key period of the game."

Every loose ball, every rebound seemed to go Georgetown's way. The Hoyas would miss shots and the ball would bounce all the way out to the perimeter, giving Georgetown boatloads of second opportunities. The Friars pulled back to within 54-49 on a three by Efejuku, but Roy Hibbert began dominating the paint, and Georgetown slowly pulled away. Two straight layups by Ewing pushed the lead to double digits and despite strong efforts by Efejuku and McKenzie, PC was cooked. Only a three pointer by McKenzie with seventeen seconds left cut the final margin to ten.

"Really when you look at the overall perspective of the basketball game, they won the game because they got 18 more attempts at the basket and that's the plain and simple end," said Welsh. "You can't give a great team like Georgetown that many opportunities. We had some great stops, great possessions, but they took 65 shots, we took 47. Some of that was, we turned it over, its deflating to your defense. Our guys were working so hard to defend and the ball comes off funky, or they win the battle in the paint. Their size hurt us obviously. We went with the three guards because we wanted to attack and when you don't have a true point guard on the floor, you have to attack with off guards and you try to make up for that by just helping each other, and offensively that's a plus but defensively and on the glass, that hurts you. Obviously their size just banged us around at important moments of the game and you get a stop after twenty eight seconds, they get the rebound and you have to play defense for another twenty seconds. Its like the football team that's on the field for a long drive, after a certain amount of time you just wear out. And then they find open gaps, find open threes, Wallace had that period where he was shooting that rainbow three in, and most of the time on second possessions. We tried to go inside and Randall had some good in and outs."

While the Friars had balanced scoring in the loss to Louisville, on this day, only Efejuku and McKenzie showed up offensively. Weyinmi had 25 of the Friars 58 points, on 8-12 shooting and 5-6 threes. McKenzie chipped in 16 points on 6-10 shooting, but normally reliable contributors like Xavier (3 points), Hanke (4 points, 2-9 shooting), and McDermott (4 points) were largely ineffective against the Hoyas swarming defense and interior size.

"Weyinmi was very good," Welsh commented. "We had our talk last week and we just tried to get him back on track. I thought, we can't let him drift away and I saw him drifting. We had a good talk, he's a great kid and he was just losing confidence and I was losing confidence in him because he wasn't playing well. It was really bad and I said let's get back to work. The other night was a feel-out game and he got his feet wet, back in the mix and tonight I told him to just go play. But we got to get him some help. They're so good on defense that they swarm the ball and you have to have other guys cut and make plays and you have to have some inside scoring. Tonight we threw it in there but we didn't always come out of there with anything."

PC also seemed to wear out physically after assuming the 41-35 lead. "I think just because of the extra possessions, when you're having to fight so much, you can rest on offense, you can't rest on defense," said Welsh. "They're methodical out there and they're tough, they're grinding. They had 65 attempts at the basket, so that's 65 times we had to play defense plus the ten possessions where they turned it over, so that's a lot of possessions on defense. We tried to mix and match with our younger guys a little bit in the first half but down the stretch you want to go with your guys. That period where they hurt us on the glass, I noticed our cuts were a little slow on offense so I tried to pick up the pace a little bit by pressing. It's pick your poison. They go back door on you or they go inside to Hibbert."

"We had two free throws for the entire half. It's tough. You got to try and get to the line a little bit. We're trying to attack and drive, they're up in you so much and you're trying to make something happen going to the basket, it didn't happen. They had one team foul after the first fifteen minutes, which I guess that's great defense. One team foul, that might be a record, after fifteen minutes with a team that's up in your shorts. But that's good. You've got to give John (Thompson) credit for playing great defense. His team is very good defensively, one of the top teams in the country defensively and that's what you have. You have good pressure on the ball and you've got shot blockers inside and length, you get out in the passing lanes and they're tough. You've got to make some things happen and when we got the lead, what was happening was, we were rebounding at the beginning of the second half and we got run outs and we got transition, because scoring against their half court is very difficult. We had to struggle to score in a half court game so we wanted to run but you can't run if you're not rebounding the ball."

Missing Dwain Williams didn't help, either. "He sprained his ankle pretty severely in the Louisville game and he just couldn't go," lamented Welsh. "We kept him out and he had treatment all day yesterday and today and he couldn't push off on it."

In the end, Georgetown was just too much physically for the Friars, overwhelming them on the boards by a 43-26 margin, including 23-6 on the offensive glass. In addition, the Hoyas had an incredible, almost unfathomable, 27-1 advantage in the game in second chance points. "That's why they're number eight and preseason number five," said Welsh. "They come in with force and they've got four starters out there that started in the Final Four last year. Very good basketball team so you've got to take care of the stuff you can try and take care of and that's the glass. It's not like we weren't fighting or that we were playing soft. There were battles and they just won a lot of those little mini-wars in there, whether it be in the lane or funky bounces that came outside the lane. I had our guards in there trying to rebound, trying to help and all those bounces came out and their guards were standing there on the perimeter and they came right to them."

"Our guys battled. Tough weekend because they fought their hearts out in both games and came up with zero so now as a coach you just have to say, alright, let's go back to work and take a day off here and try to get better and get Jon back in practice and get Dwain healthy and get back in the mix."

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