Louisville Wrapup/Rutgers Preview

Providence has not defeated Louisville since they joined the Big East, and a wacky affair Wednesday night saw Providence go down 14-0, then go up by 8 points, and ultimately unravel and lose 92-70. Now the Friars have to pick themselves up again and protect their home court against Rutgers on Saturday.

Fans experienced the all emotions that come with a young team trying to find its way in the challenging Big East. Unlike their impressive effort and victory over St. John's on the road, Providence couldn't maintain their poise against a tough Louisville team, and cracked over the last 12 minutes of play. Actually they nearly cracked in the first 5 minutes of the game too, but rallied and played some of their best ball of year for a good 15 minutes.

When you play a team that likes to pressure the ball, you have to come out aggressively and attack the pressure. Providence did not do that at the outset, and was down 14-0 and looking lost early. After a timeout in which he inserted Vincent Council for Brian McKenzie, Keno Davis' Friars attacked the Louisville defense with purpose and quickly erased the early deficit. The Friars moved the ball well, and penetrated toward the basket effectively, either scoring inside or kicking the ball outside for three point opportunities. Providence was able score 42 points in the final 15 minutes of the first half, leading 42-37 at the half. Unfortunately for Providence, things began to bog down in the second half.

Louisville came out with better intensity in the second half, and went inside immediately to try and foul out Bilal Dixon. While Dixon picked up a third foul, the redshirt freshman didn't repeat his mistakes of the past by picking up further fouls. The Friars also packed in the defense to aid Dixon, but that opened up more perimeter opportunities for the Cardinals. Louisville began the second half with an 11-6 run to tie the score at 48, and the teams went back and forth until the 12 minute mark. Marshon Brooks had his best game in weeks, going 8-11 from the field, and playing solid help defense in the zone. His ability to create his own shot helped to keep the Friars in the game over the first 8 minutes of the second half.

After a lengthy delay reviewing a shot clock violation that ultimately rewarded Louisville, the Friars seemed to tighten up, and Louisville refocused and began executing their offense on all cylinders. Louisville went a 19-4 run, largely driven by three point shots, and it took a 3pt shot by Marshon Brooks to eventually end a 19-4 that had the Cardinals up 74-61.

Providence clearly was rattled, and besides the Friars struggling on offense and Louisville really getting hot with their shooting, it appeared that the Friars also lost their fight on the backboards. The Friars were out rebounded 26-7 in the second half, after only being out rebounded by five in the first half. In reality, the Friars never bounced back on offense, defense, or rebounding, and eventually lost big by a score of 92-70.

Louisville has been a very good rebounding team of late, and in the last six games the Cardinals have been +9.5 in rebounding advantage over opponents. If you combine that with Greedy Peterson having perhaps his worst game of the year in both scoring (3) and rebounds (5), not a single Friar guard recording more than one rebound, it adds up to Providence being totally out played on the glass. This speaks to a lack of effort in the face of adversity over the last 12 minutes of the game.

Coach Keno Davis emphasized in his press conference that his team cannot simply play with energy when things are going well, they have to shake off bad breaks and opposition runs and fight through their struggles. While the team has done that at times, including after the bad start in the first 5 minutes of the game, they continued to let circumstances effect their performance in the second half. Effort for 40 minutes is something Davis has always demanded, and he suggested that there may be lineup changes versus Rutgers in light of what he's seen in games and in practice.

"We'll know by what we see in practice," said Davis. "The guys that play hard, the guys that show that they are going to use this to motivate them to become better players to have a better team, they'll get the nod on Saturday."

Providence has to eliminate their Jekel and Hyde transformations within games, and that begins with consistent effort as well as a dedication to defense, rebounding, and dictating a pace that the Friars can compete well under. This Friar squad has yet to really demonstrate an effective half court offense for long stretches, and needs to get its transition game going to really be at its best. Providence allowed Louisville to dictate a slower pace in the second half, and that was a significant contributor to the lopsided final score. Will Rutgers be able to do the same on Saturday?

The Scarlet Knights are coming off of a beating at the hands of a loaded West Virginia team, so that provides little indication of what is in store for Saturday. Rutgers is led by Mike Rosario, Jonathan Mitchell, and Dane Miller. While center Greg Echenique appears out for the year, the Scarlet Knight still have size up front with big man Hamady Ndiaye. Still, Rutgers has had rebounding problems at times, which they did not expect would happen earlier in the year. Rutgers is deeper and more balanced than in the past, but still struggles when Mike Rosario's shot is not falling. Rosario opens up the offense for easy looks from the role players, so containing him is the key to beating Rutgers.

Rutgers currently has lost three straight games, leaving the Scarlet Knights with a record of 9-5. This is close to a must win for Providence. Rutgers is among the easier games on the Friars' Big East schedule, and a win would even their Big East record at 2-2. However, should they lose, it would leave Providence at 1-3 in the Big East and dig them a real hole with another two game road trip upcoming. The game is a late 8pm start time at the Dunk, and Keno Davis is hoping his team is ready to play its best from tip off for this one.

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