Friars Dispatch Bryant

Providence had one last tune up game before the Big East, and the Bryant Bulldogs served as a good sparring partner to work out some lingering issues in their play. The 91-64 result was an easy win for the Friars, as Providence completed a sweep of teams from the state of Rhode Island.

The Bryant Bulldogs were really no match for their Big East neighbors, but don't tell that to forward Cecil Gresham, who had a highlight big game for the Bulldogs, going for 24 points on 10-20 shooting. He was the one Bulldog who really looked like he could pass as a Big East player.

The rest of the Bulldogs scrapped and clawed throughout the game, but met their limitations when they had to face Division I players after being recruited to compete against Division II. The real question last night was whether or not the Providence players are ready to compete as Big East players themselves against the best conference in the nation in a little over a week from now.

At best, the Bryant game offered one last opportunity to try and jumpstart the 3 point shooting of some of the Friar guards. Poor three point shooting has been the biggest disappointment of the non-conference schedule, and Keno Davis has been trying desperately to get Brian McKenzie, Jeff Xavier, and Sharaud Curry contributing more from behind the 3 point line. Since the Friars could get almost any inside shot they wanted against the undersized Bulldogs, Bryant was forced to play zone defense for most of the contest and dared the Providence guards to knock down outside shots.

By games end, Providence had more or less achieved their goal, knocking down 10 of 26 three point attempts, good for over 38%. While Weyinme Efejuku and Marshon Brooks were 5-10 from the 3pt. line, it was other Friar guards that needed to show the most improvement. That happened for Brian McKenzie and Sharaud Curry, who went 2-5 and 3-7 respectively in the game from three. That was some good music to the ears of Keno Davis, who knows that those Friars will need to keep making those shots in league play.

"This was our last chance to correct some of the teaching points we had before the Big East. Every time I see our team I see us improving on things…I think we can be a dangerous team in the Big East Conference. We shot 80% for a half today, so that was pretty good. I hope that is a sign of things to come. That shows that we're learning and that our players are taking more high percentage shots."

The only Friar outside shooter who continued to struggle was Jeff Xavier, who was 0-4 from the three point line. Marshon Brooks led the Friars with 18 points, mixing outside shots with drives to the basket. Brooks spoke about maturing this year as he enters the Big East:

"In my freshman year, I didn't know if I would play in the Big East. This year, I've been playing well so my confidence is up. I'm taking what the defense gives me, but I like shooting the three."

The other points of concern that Providence had been working on to improve over the course of the non-conference schedule were defending the three point line and making free throws. The free throws have shown significant improvement in recent games, and the three point shot (both making them and defending them) has been a point of emphasis.

"I think the main thing we've improved on this year is defending the 3pt. shot. Those first few games, teams were lighting it up against us, and our staff was worried that we could have some long night in the Big East. We know we are going to be undersized at times in the Big East, so if you it's important that you limit those 3 point percentages of other teams from the outside."

Bryant only made 5-23 three point attempts for 21%.

Providence still needs to do a better job with transition defense, as well as scoring on the fast break and finishing lay ups too, but those appear to be somewhat easier issues to resolve that fixing the Friar shooting woes that plagued them prior to tonight.

While there has been no final announcement on the red shirts, it's expected that there will be some sort of statement by the St. John's game in eleven days. Providence has practiced without Alex Kellogg for a couple of weeks, but still would prefer to see his return for the Big East rather than activating either Bilal Dixon or Greedy Peterson. The Friars resume on New Years Eve at 4pm in the Big East opener vs. St. John's.

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