With a big game looming on Saturday, Jeff Xavier and the Friars may have overlooked their Wednesday night opponent, even though they knew that Jackson State wouldn't be intimidated. Jeff Xavier spoke for the seniors on this team when he talked about taking care of business on the court even when you feel a little rusty.
"I think we definitely came out flat. You can't just bring the necessary intensity for only 20 minutes. You need to compete as hard as you can for the full game if you expect to win games. I think the eleven days off between games was tough for guys, especially with the exams taking up so much of their time, but you have to fight though that."
Jackson State was like a team full of Mayflies that seemed to be three times as fast as the Friars in the first half. Providence's full court press early was largely ineffective against the guard oriented team, and they gave up 11 layups alone in the first half. The only thing the full press did accomplish was perhaps to wind Jackson State, who never was able to recapture their energy in the 2nd half. Like Mayflies that live fast and die young, Jackson State had nothing left in the tank once Providence brought their A game in the second half.
"We weren't surprised that they came into this game expecting to win", said Xavier. "They've already played a bunch of top notch teams like Kansas so they weren't going to be intimidated. We knew that they were picked to be the best team in their conference."
When asked what Coach Keno Davis told them at halftime to jumpstart the team, Xavier responded, "I can't say what Coach said at halftime on TV, and I've never seen him talk like that but it got us fired up."
The pep talk combined with some adjustments certainly worked, as the second half was a senior dominated effort for the Friars. Let by Weyinme Efejuku's 18 points, Providence also saw good production from Xavier, McDemott, Curry, Kale, and Hanke, all of whom scored in double figures. After being down by eleven points at halftime, the Friars hung 53 on a stunned Jackson State team that was feeling confident just minutes earlier. Providence also only gave up 28 second half points, after an abysmal first half defensively in which they were lit up themselves for 43 points.
Besides motivating the team to win, Keno Davis went to a hybrid of M2M and zone, flashing his "match-up" on defense and pushing the ball on defensive rebounds and off turnovers, something they didn't do at all in the first half. Jackson State was sending five players on the offensive boards, and Davis realized that Providence had to make them pay for doing it. While Providence didn't have a single fast break point in the first half, they had eleven in the 2nd half, which took the aggressive play away from Jackson State.
The Friars were also excellent from the free throw line in the game, and Keno Davis feels that the team is turning the corner in that area that was previously a point of concern. Providence shot 77% from the free throw line for the game, including good numbers from Jon Kale and Geoff McDermott, who had struggled from the line earlier this season.
Now that the team has put the exam break behind them and survived a scare, they need to put forth their best effort for the upcoming game against old school rival Boston College.
"Boston College coming up is going to be our first game and it's going to be huge", said Jeff Xavier. "It's going to tough facing an ACC team on road, but we're really looking forward to it and we're going up there to play for a win."
Xavier is showing signs of coming out of his shooting slump, and he knows that he and his teammates will need to knock down more shots than in previous outings to come home with the quality victory over BC. The training wheels come off on Saturday for the first true road game of the year, and the Friars need to be ready at tipoff instead of halftime in this time around. Game time at Conte Forum is 4pm. The game will be televised on NESN.
See the accompanying link for Keno Davis' press comments after the Jackson State game: http://providence.scout.com/a.z?s=425&p=8&c=1&nid=4088910
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