Friars Suffer Road Kill

West Virginia's Coliseum has been Providence College's ‘Little Shop of Horrors' over the years, and Saturday proved no different. The Mountaineers, who defend mightily but have struggled to score, found the Friar defense to be just what the doctor ordered, as WV cruised to a 86-59 victory in Morgantown.

West Virginia was only averaging 67 points per game in Big East play. Providence allowed them to shoot 50% from the field and 40% from 3 point range for 86 points. This is from a team that isn't know for it's balanced scoring and relies heavily on production from Desean Butler and Alex Ruoff.

The Friars did a decent job on Butler limiting him to 17 points, but failed to mark Ruoff who went off for 24 points on six three pointers. The Friars also gave up plenty of foul line open jumpers to Kevin Jones (8pts) and Devin Ebanks (13pts). Providence even gave up ten points to freshman point guard Truck Bryant (10pts), who only played 22 minutes due to foul trouble.

The Providence offense also struggled all day without second leading scorer Marshon Brooks out with an ankle injury. The Friars committed 19 turnovers, and only had 9 assists. In contrast, shooting guard Alex Ruoff and forward Devin Ebanks account for ten assists between them.

The Friar scoring was led by Jeff Xavier with 15 points, and Sharaud Curry with 13 points, although the Friars overall shot a meager 37.5% from the field and a dismal 17% from the three point line. Providence got also got insufficient production from the front court, despite the fact that West Virginia plays with no true center. Randall Hanke went over 1,000 points for his career, but only scored one basket in the game going 1-5 from the field. Jon Kale led the big men with 8 points on 4-5 shooting while Geoff McDermott pulled down 10 rebounds but only 6 points.

While the offense suffered against West Virginia, there's no denying what the big problem is for this team. The Providence defense has become a crippling issue. While the offense has been explosive at times, the defense hasn't shown any improvement in a month, and the statistics show it getting worse. In Big East play, the Friars are giving up an average of 80 points a game. This has become a poison pill for Keno Davis' team, and the results at West Virginia demonstrated that. The bottom line is that you can't win is this league if you don't defend.

Providence is getting down by double digits so quickly in games lately, it forces the team out of their offense game plan and ultimately can lead to games getting out of hand. This has produced some ugly final scores lately. By half time at West Virginia, the score was 42-27 and the Friars were down 15, just as they were versus Villanova on Wednesday. By the final buzzer, that deficit ballooned to 27 points as the Friars gave up 86 points.

Losing at West Virginia is not uncommon to almost any team, and the Mountaineers have a tremendous record there over the years. However, West Virginia's win Saturday was not a typical ‘gut it out' victory for the Mountaineers with their Big East leading tenacious defense.

Yes, they kept the Friars to 59 points, but they didn't need to. Open jump shots were there for them all day, and West Virginia was neither required to post up or drive to the basket to score. It was easy street in Morgantown.

On Tuesday, Providence plays USF in Tampa. The Bulls have struggled on offense all year long, but play above average defense. They rode that defense for a shocking 57-56 upset of 8th ranked Marquette. If Providence struggles again offensively, and enables another below average offense easy looks at the basket, the Friars will return home an unhappy group. Tuesday is a gut check game for these Friars, and they need to stop the defensive bleeding and the USF Bulls on Tuesday.

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