Hanke Sparks Friars, Beat Cincy

In the midst of a game that was turning into a physical rock fight with fifteen minutes to go, Randall Hanke stepped up his game and gave his team a lift. By the final buzzer, the Friar senior would finish with 15 points and 7 rebounds off the bench, and Providence would have a 72-63 win over Cincinnati at the Dunk.

Providence had been dealing with some adversity. The team had lost two games in row for the first time all season, Jeff Xavier suffered an eye injury against Marquette, Geoff McDermott was dealing with a tweaked hamstring, and Weyinme Efejuku had to cope with the sad news of his father's death. There was real uncertainty about what the outcome would be against the Bearcats Monday evening.

The Friars did however get an early boost with the unexpected return of Jeff Xavier to the court. Xavier, who needed stitches to his eye lid after a collision vs. Marquette and had spend Saturday night in the hospital, confidently proclaimed himself fit for play Monday morning to the PC trainer and was in the starting lineup by game time, outfitted with protective glasses. Xavier struggled to adjust his shot, but still finished with 10 points and three steals, showing his always tenacious defense. Coach Keno Davis was amazed by his player's grit and determination to help his team win.

"I never would have guessed that he'd be able to play tonight for one minute", said Keno Davis. "From everything we had heard yesterday, Thursday was very doubtful, and for him to be able to recover so that he could play was something we needed for our depth…I think he's somebody the team can really rally around because of his effort."

The Friars were playing on a quick turnaround after a bitterly disappointing loss to Marquette Saturday night, and the Providence players didn't have their outside shooting legs Monday night. It showed early on.

Providence shot an abysmal 15% (3-20) from the three point line against the Bearcats, and struggled to stay ahead against Cincinnati's strong and aggressive front line. The Friars held their own though, particularly on the defensive end, where they forced 17 Cincinnati turnovers, including 13 steals. Cincinnati struggled to score for most of the game, and only some late three point shooting form Dion Dixon (14pts) gave the Bearcats any real outside punch.

Providence had two keys to winning the game. Job one was to shut down Deonta Vaughn, and the second key was to compete evenly with Cincinnati on the back boards. The Friars did both, limiting Vaughn to only 6 points with five turnovers, and PC was only out rebounded by 1 by the Bearcats (40-39). Keno Davis was particularly satisfied with his team's effort on a night where they weren't at 100% and shot the ball poorly.

"Vaughn is an unbelievable talent, and we were determined to not give him open looks," said Davis. "We wanted to defend him as team, and we switched ball screens against him, gave him pressure, and tried and take him out of the ballgame as much as we could. We tried to make other players step up and beat us."

Lead referee Jim Burr made it clear early on in the contest that the game would be called rather loosely, and seemingly without the inclusion of inside fouls or traveling calls, or so it seemed at times. The overall result was a dogfight in the paint, where every basket was hard fought and full of physical contact.

While Providence's defense and effort was keeping them even or ahead of Cincinnati, what the team needed was an offensive spark to ignite the offense. Enter Randall Hanke. After a lackluster first half when he scored 4 points and grabbed one rebound, Hanke caught fire with the game tied at 36 at the 15 minute mark, and over a 7 1/2 minute stretch, he scored 11 points to pace the Friars to a lead that they would never relinquish. Hanke also pulled down 6 second half rebounds to help the Friars fend off Cincinnati.

"I felt like we needed to get jump started a little bit", said Hanke. "I felt like a brought some good energy at the start of the second half and I got us going a little bit. I just tried to be aggressive, run the court, and finish strong and rebound well too."

But Hanke wasn't alone in flashing quality front court play. Jonathan Kale and Geoff McDermott also were highly productive in this physical contest. McDermott filled the stat sheet with 11 rebounds, 7 points, 5 assists, and 5 blocks, and 3 steals. Kale also had a strong game, scoring 14 points and pulling down 7 rebounds. McDemott and Kale, along with Hanke, did a solid job trying to match Cincinnati big men Yancy Gates and Mike Williams, who led the Bearcat attack with a combined 35 points.

This was a gut check win for the Friars, who played hard throughout, even though they weren't necessarily playing their best. The ability of the front court to win the game for them against Cincinnati was very different from the win at Cincinnati, where hot three point shooting from the Friar back court was what won the contest for PC.

"We've got an ability to win in different ways now, said Davis. We can shoot the three, we can rebound, we can go inside, we can drive and penetrate… Now we are learning that different players can have big nights for us. When you have multiple players who can lead you in scoring, you can find different way to win the ballgame. That's when you're a dangerous team."

The Friars will need that outside shot back again when they take to the road once again Thursday night to face Seton Hall. The Pirates have a lights out sharp shooter of their own in Jeremy Hazell, and also love to get easy baskets off their high energy defense with creative point guard Eugene Harvey and athletic forward Robert Mitchell. Providence will need to take care of the ball, and take advantage of their depth and size advantage in order to grab their second road win. If they don't, the Pirates have shown the ability to catch fire, and already have taken Villanova to overtime, and knocked off quality teams this year in Virginia Tech and USC.

Game: Providence at Seton Hall
Location: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
Time: 7:00 pm ET
TV: ESPNU - Radio: 103.7FM WEEI

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