PC, playing like an angry team with something to prove, used a rare hot start to run the more methodical Bears off the court. Despite a couple of three pointers by Adrien Williams, PC opened up a ten point lead, at 23-13, on a Sharaud Curry drive and layup.
From there, the Friars continued to pour it on. Two consecutive Marshon Brooks three pointers and a Jonathan Kale lay-in doubled the lead at 36-18, and a flurry of baskets by Brooks, including another three, two layups and a free throw pushed the lead past twenty points with 2:50 to play. Another drive and layup by Curry and an acrobatic, twisting lay-in by Brooks with a second left sent PC to halftime with a decisive 48-25 lead.
The Friars had played intense, smart ball in the first half. Less reliant on the three, PC pounded the ball inside to Kale and Randall Hanke, and drove to the rim against the physically overmatched Bears, shooting 61% from the field, including 4-9 from three. Brooks dazzled with 17 points, and the Friars committed just two turnovers. "We had a little better shot selection," Keno Davis said. "I don't think we turned down too many open threes. Brown did a good job identifying our shooters. They understood that we can shoot the ball. I don't think they looked at the stats of the last three games and said, Oh, this team can't shoot. So we shot less threes and made more. And guys turning down some forced opportunities to make the extra pass, creating for their teammates."
A bit flat to start the second half, PC allowed Brown back to within 48-30, on three free throws by Williams and a jumper by Peter Sullivan (16 points). But that was as close as Brown would get. PC answered with a three by Curry and solid inside work by Kale and Hanke to push the lead back above twenty, where it would remain for the rest of the game.
PC's lead peaked at 30 points, 71-41, with 9:30 left, on a Curry basket. Chris Baudinet subbed in with eight minutes to go, and the walk-on hit a long jumper and a three-pointer for his first PC points. The Friars played Baudinet for the final eight minutes, along with fellow walk-ons Connor Heine, Luke Burchett, and Brian Beloin, who each played the final two minutes as PC closed out the Bears.
The Friars repeatedly burned Brown on the pick and roll, with Hanke breaking to the basket repeatedly for easy layups. PC pounded Brown on the glass, piling up a 44-29 advantage and outscoring their opponents in the paint by a 46-20 count. Brown's 6'8 Matt Mullery, who burned URI for nine layups, scored 11 points, but found the going tough in the paint. While both teams had just nine turnovers, PC also had 19 assists and shot 40% from three. "We've got to be a team that takes what other teams give us," said Davis. "We're not a Top Ten team in the country that can just go to their strength and just dominate teams. Our guys just have to understand the intensity that they need to play with, and if they're playing 24, 25 minutes, there's always somebody on the bench that would like to take those minutes."
PC still struggled a bit from the charity stripe. "I think free throw shooting always worries you," said Davis. "I don't feel like we have a poor free throw shooting team. Our better free throw shooters have to find a way to get to the free throw line. Jonathan Kale's been struggling at the line, he's been getting there the most, but he does have a cast on his hand and I think he will improve as the season goes on. We have free throw practice every day and we'll continue to work on it. Just like with the three point shooting, I'm not too concerned about it right now because there's not a huge sample of games to look at. I think halfway through the year, if we're still struggling to shoot threes, still struggling to shoot free throws, I don't know that I'd have an answer. If you can't shoot, you can't score, you're going to have long nights more often than not."
The Friars benefited from another star turn by Brooks, who finished with 22 points on 9-12 shooting. The explosive sophomore is PC's most well-rounded player and can do it all on the court. Brooks can stroke it with ease from three point range, penetrate and hit the pull-up jumper or take it to the rim and finish with authority. He can handle the ball, pass with flair, rebound, and his length on defense, both on inbounding plays and in man-to-man, gives opposing players fits.
Other kudos go to Sharaud Curry, who looked far quicker and more comfortable with the offense than he has. Curry scored 14 points, on 5-7 shooting, and dished 8 assists with no turnovers. "I haven't been too worried about Sharaud just because I think people know what he's able to do," Davis remarked. "He's had some great games and is coming off a serious injury. Tonight was a great sign that he was not only scoring himself but he was getting his teammates involved, running the offense, he's understanding more of what we want as coaches, and he's having more confidence in himself." The inside tandem of Kale (13 points, 8 rebounds) and Hanke (13 points, 10 rebounds) acquitted itself well. Geoff McDermott rebounded well with eight boards, but needs to be more assertive in the half court offense, with only five shot attempts.
"Yesterday, the day before the game, we actually practiced a lot longer and harder than wee would have," said Davis. "Coming back from our trip, we had planned on practicing when we landed Monday night and it was going to be a spirited practice, but I thought that the best way for us to come out and try to get a win on Wednesday was to not practice. So I just opened the gym and put the balls in there and let guys come in and work on their free throw shooting or three point shooting and most of the guys showed up and did that."
"Coming into this game I was worried about Brown," Davis said. "They're a pretty good team and with our travel, that's kind of an opportunity for a team to knock you off. They knew they could play with us. So our ability to come off that trip, defend the three point shot the way we did, especially early in the game, ability to press a team, really bothered them early. For our players to understand the game plan and then to execute it as well as they did is a real good sign of things to come."
Providence will now prepare for the annual in-state war with the University of Rhode Island. URI rolls into the Dunk on Saturday at 2:00, and plays a very similar style to the Friars. The Rams like to press all game, force the tempo, run, and are not overpowering in the frontcourt. URI uses transition and athleticism to create easy scores, but when things bog down, Jimmy Baron and Keith Cothran are dead-eye shooters. Having already lost three out of conference games, the URI tilt is taking on even more importance on the Friars' early season schedule.
Friars Rout Brown Bears, 86-62
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