Friars Debut at New Dunk

The first Keno Davis win (preseason) at Providence College is in the books, but the final score may have been the least important point of interest in this one. How the Friars have changed on the court from last season is what Friartown was really on the lookout for.

The Ottawa Gee Gee's are far from the toughest opponent the Friars will face this season, but they provided some fresh faces to compete against for a Providence squad that had grown weary of intra-squad scrimmages. The Friars made quick work of Ottawa, cruising to an 85-57 victory that was never in doubt. This really wasn't much of a surprise, given that Ottawa had already suffered 30 point losses to both Northeastern and Kansas.

What was the best aspect of this game? Besides the greatly improved view in the renovated Dunkin' Donuts Center, it was the better defense. It's been a long time since Providence's defense outperformed its offense, but that was the case Saturday night.

The Friars played 40 minutes of man to man defense, pressing much of the game. While we've seen this group of Friars dabble in the M2M before, they've never been able to establish it for long periods of time. More importantly, the Friars were able to play man defense without picking up all sorts of personal fouls defense, (Something that often forced them into zone in the past) and doing so with proper switching as well. For their hard work on defense, the Friars limited Ottawa 31% shooting for the game, and out rebounded them by twenty.

Although the team shot poorly from the 3 point line (an ugly 1-22), the Friars still managed to score 85 points with easy baskets on the break and off their defense, shooting a solid 45% for the game overall. (23pts off turnovers) Unless their 3 point shooting woes become a pattern due to the extended 3pt. line, we'll chalk it up for the moment to first game jitters under a new coach; especially given how well they've shot the deep ball in the past.

The Friars post game is clearly a work in progress, with Randall Hanke still getting acclimated to the new offense, and the other big men producing more through put backs than anything else. Keno Davis indicated that while he's put in about 95% of his offense, right now he's only running the most basic offensive sets in the preseason for purposes of preserving competitive advantage down the road.

So what can you take away from a 28 point win where 14 players see the floor? For starters, Friar fans could breathe a sigh of relief when they saw Sharaud Curry take the floor. Curry missed all of last season with a broken foot, but managed to log 15 minutes in the first half. While he certainly is very rusty, just seeing him move without limitation or significant pain was a huge step forward for the team's only point guard. Curry didn't register much in the box score other than a couple of rebounds and a steal, but he didn't commit a single turnover either, something that none of the other starters could say.

As for a player who stood out in this one, Geoff McDermott was leading way early with 7 points and eight rebounds in just 12 minutes, until he took an elbow to face and missed the rest of game due to swelling. McDermott looked fit and healthy; of course the key for McDermott will be maintaining that health throughout the season. He was much more active in the post than in the past, a sign that he will be taking on a more traditional role this year in the front court.

With McDermott out, Jon Kale took advantage of the extra minutes, and ended up as the leading scorer with 15 points. Kale hit his shots, grabbed rebounds, and played hard on both ends with a clear purpose, something that sometimes eluded him last season. If Kale can be an energy guy off the bench, grabbing rebounds and finishing put backs, his senior year may be a memorable one.

Both Weyinme Efejuku and Brian McKenzie pulled solid performances, despite neither shooting well from the three point line. Efejuku was active taking the ball to the basket and on the break (4-9 fg), and McKenzie flashed his improved strength, pulling down an impressive 8 rebounds. The two revelations in the game were from the play of Marshon Brooks and Alex Kellogg. Brooks' game is beginning to flourish as he matures and gains muscle, scoring 12 points and using his length on defense.

Kellogg, no longer an intimidated freshman with a year under his belt, is becoming more comfortable shooting ball. When Kellogg can combine a few baskets and some rebounds with his good decision making on the court like he did Saturday night, he demonstrates that he's the kind of cerebral type player that should have a bright future under Keno Davis.

Game Notes: Keno Davis' father, Dr. Tom Davis, was in attendance for his son's debut with the Friars. The elder Davis was impressed with both the downtown Providence and the new Dunk, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the "cupboard was not bare", in reference to Friar roster. He's also optimistic that his son can find success in his first season with the current Providence roster… Despite a disappointing shooting night for Jeff Xavier, the Friar senior did post a career high in assists with ten for the game.

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