Friars Bedevil Depaul

The Providence Friars have to be very happy sitting at 2-0 atop the Big East. They managed to take care of business at home in a conference where nothing is a given. In a workman like effort, the Friars managed to out execute Depaul well enough to maintain a lead throughout and grind out a solid 62-54 victory.

This was not the type of game that Providence normally excels in. The pace was slow, with Depaul running a lot of clock on each possession and it was difficult for the Friars to get their transition game going as Depaul did a very good job getting back on defense.

Moreover, Providence didn't get much production out of their center position. Jonathan Kale was shaking off the flu and was held scoreless, and Randall Hanke was limited to only 4 points in 18 minutes of play. Finally, Marshon Brooks had one of his more disappointing performances of the season, going only 1-7 from the field and scoring only 4 points.

Despite all of that, Providence is becoming a team with multiple scoring options on any given night, and Saturday night was no exception. Four Friars scored in double figures against Depaul, with Sharaud Curry (13 pts – 11 in the first half) and Jeff Xavier (10 pts) doing much of the scoring early, while Geoff McDermott and Weyinme Efejuku did most of the team's scoring in the second half. Efejuku was very solid throughout, leading the Friars with 18 points on 7-13 shooting.

McDermott stepped up when he (13 pts,10 rbs) accounted for six critical points during a Friar mini-run down the stretch after Depaul had cut the Friar lead to 1 with 10 minutes to go in the ball game. "I felt the offense needed something different, and I was able to knock down some shots and help the team", said McDemott. Keno Davis also commented on the Friars' poise when Depaul threatened to take the lead:

"People are going to say you did what you should do - win at home. When you look at the Big East Conference this year, every game can be won or lost. You just can't say ‘Hey, we're at home, we should win.' We've got to come out and play as hard as we can, and for the most part I thought we did that tonight with the exception of a few lapses. Our guys are confident in their abilities. They kept Depaul at arms length even when they made a few runs at us and that is a tribute to our seniors and the experience of this team."

Weyinme Efejuku talked about the importance of knocking down shots when the other team is making a run at you."Basketball is a game of runs, and the other team is going to make a run sooner or later", said Efejuku.. "We took a second to react to their run and to react with our own run, and Geoff really helped us get out of that funk."

Providence also did a good job defensively, keeping the two major scoring threats for Depaul largely out of the box score. The Friars shadowed Dar Tucker all game long, forcing him into a subpar 4-17 performance and 12 points, which is well below his average of over 20 points a game.

The Friar front court also limited Blue Demon big man Mac Koshwal to only seven points, again well below his average of nearly 15 points a game. The ability to lock down Depaul's most productive players bodes well for the Friars' prospects at defending the large number big time scorers that are sprinkled all over the Big East.

The Friars also stayed even on the boards with Depaul at 39 rebounds a piece, something that is always a point of emphasis for Keno Davis. One overlooked fact that may have helped the Friars on the glass was the absence of Depaul 6'9 freshman Devin Hill, who is the Blue Demon's leading shot blocker and comes off the bench to assist Koshwal in the front court, averaging nearly 5 points and over 4 rebounds a game.

The Friars are happy where they are at this point in the conference schedule, but they aren't feeling overconfident or under any undue pressure to win as seniors. McDemott commented on the mind set of the team right now. "Nobody really expects us to do anything (in the Big East), so we don't really feel any pressure. We just have to play hard and get better every day, and I think we've done that since the Northeastern game. We have two conference wins now, and we'll just focus on getting conference wins. We have 2 now and hopefully we can make it 3 at Cincinnati. One game at time is the approach, and hopefully that approach will help us get the most wins."

Weyinme Efejuku also spoke on the topic of pressure and playing on the road:

"I don't feel any pressure. The most pressure is the pressure that we put on ourselves. Just playing hard and winning is the best thing you can do to handle pressure...I think we've been through enough road games in the three years we've been here, and playing on the road is tough whether you have seniors or freshman, but our experience is helping us (with that)."

Now that Providence had held home court, the Friars will need every bit of their experience to try and extend their momentum on the road in the Big East. "I'm impressed with how much we've improved as a ball club over the last six or seven games", said Davis. "When you look at our 3 pt. percentage defense, our free throw shooting percentage, and our overall field goal percentage defense, we've really improved those things over the last six, seven, eight games. We'll see how good we are once we get on the road"', said Keno Davis. "But, we got off to a little better start in this game, so that's just another area we've improved upon, and I think we can go into this road trip with Cincinnati and Georgetown and feel like we have nothing to lose and everything to gain and just see how hard we can play."

Providence plays at Cincinnati on Wednesday, January 7th at 7:00pm. The game is being broadcast on the ESPNU network.

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