PC Slips By Northeastern On Road

Road wins aren't easy in any sport, and Keno Davis and his Friars were happy to grab their first one of the season at Northeastern on Tuesday, winning 76-72. Some hot shooting and a well executed inbound lob down the stretch sealed the win for Providence.

Many asked (including this writer) why Providence was even playing a CAA team like Northeastern on the road, but that relates back to the coaching change a year and a half ago and issue of scheduling deadlines. The fact of the matter is that like it or not, Providence was in fact playing in an old school hockey rink at Northeastern last night, and winning the game wasn't going to be easy.

Despite facing a relatively sparse but spunky student body lining the court, Providence actually did made it look relatively easy for much of the game. Providence led 40-29 at the half, and maintained the lead in the second half. The Friars shot an impressive 56.4% for the game, including a sizzling 63.65% in the second half. That hot shooting helped them maintain leads between 8 and as high as 13 points throughout most of the contest. However, they took far fewer shots in the second half, largely due to Northeastern's stepped up defense and some costly turnovers (Curry 5, Brooks 4).

Scoring points and achieving leads isn't necessarily the problem for this team, it's maintaining consistent defensive intensity and closing out games that appears to be the challenge. Providence led by 13 with less than five minutes left in the game, yet with just 15 seconds on the clock, they were only up by a basket. Providence got beat inside too often in the second half, and turnovers compounded the problem on offense. It ended up taking a sharply executed inbound lob from Vincent Council to Greedy Peterson with one second on the shot clock to put the Friars up 4, securing the win 76-72.

Are ‘closing problems' a matter of youth and inexperience? Maybe a little, but others would say that the youth excuse is a cop-out when veterans like Curry and Brooks have been the ones turning the ball over in crunch time. Curry by most measures had an excellent game at Northeastern, going 7-10 from the field and scoring a team high 19 points. However, he did have more turnovers than assists with some over dribbling, and Brooks is keeping the ball too long in late game half court situations, which have occasionally gotten him into trouble. Brooks and Curry are the team's best two players, but perhaps they are trying to do too much by themselves in crunch time.

In the long run, it might be best for the team to put the ball in the hands of freshman Vincent Council for the last couple possessions. Council doesn't necessarily need to shoot it, but he has the size to see the floor well and make good decisions with the ball. This would free up both Brooks and Curry to receive passes for shooting opportunities, the thing that they both excel at. It is some food for thought as the season progresses.

Greedy Peterson had one of his best games of the year thus far. He grabbed 9 key rebounds, and finished well around the basket going 9-12 from the field scoring 18 points while only launching one three pointer. That perimeter discretion really was true of the entire team, who only shot 11 three point attempts, a season low. Fortunately for the Friars, they connected on six of them. Brian McKenzie, who still has struggled offensively, quietly added an important 8 rebounds in a game that Providence only won the battle of the boards by 3.

Despite some late game stumbles, the Friars are now 5-2 and have their first road win, having taken a team's best shot and survived in a hostile environment. That does benefit a young team's confidence. The timing couldn't be any better either, as the environment is about to go from hostile to flat out nasty in a matter of days. The Friars play at old state rival Rhode Island on Saturday, and it's expected to be a physical battle as usual. Providence is going to have to rebound the ball extremely well, limit their turnovers, and tighten up an interior defense that has given up too many easy baskets, particularly on the baseline. Coach Keno Davis certainly has his hands full this week.

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