Orange Crushes the Friars

It's not as though Providence has had a lot of success over the years playing in the Carrier Dome. Not with a 3-18 record in the building. And going up against a loaded Syracuse team that is ranked number three in the nation did not bode well for improving that record of success. The Friars fell 85-68 to the Orange and dropped to 12-10 overall and 4-6 in the Big East.

Syracuse is a team primed to make another run at a national championship. The Orange seemingly possess everything needed to give their fans a joy ride in March. Size up front, athleticism, length, shooting ability and a cohesiveness not seen from Cuse teams in a while. In short, everything necessary to give defensively challenged Providence fits.

Not that the Friars didn't give it their best shot. Providence hung with Syracuse for a half, and traded punches with a superior opponent. PC's only lead was at 8-7 and from there, Syracuse rocketed to an 18-8 lead. Although the Friars would never catch Syracuse, they succeeded in hanging around.

The Orange bring the back line of their tough 2-3 zone out far enough to leave the baseline exposed, and the Friars were able to take advantage several times in the first half, as two Marshon Brooks' lay-ups and a Jamine Peterson three point play narrowed the score to 32-26. After a Andy Rautins' three, Vincent Council reeled off six straight points on two lay-ups and two free throws, and the Friars trailed by just 37-34. In between two Rautins' misses, Peterson misfired on a three, and PC had to be happy down just three at the break.

Providence hadn't shot particularly well in the first half (13-35), but had limited turnovers and had taken advantage of some sloppy play by Syracuse and a short period of poor shooting by the Orange to hang close. Little did PC and its fans realize what was to come.

The Orange came out smoking to start the second half, and quickly pulled away from the cold Friars. In the first minute and a half, a 9-0 run put PC behind 46-34, as Arinze Onuaku (20 points, 10-12 shooting) scored three inside hoops, along with a Brandon Triche (15 points) three. In fact, Syracuse seemed to be making a concerted effort to pound the ball inside against the smaller Friars.

Syracuse's lead peaked at 64-41, after a 27-7 run to start the half. During that pivotal stretch, Syracuse buried 11 of 15 shots, while PC was able to get off just nine shots, making three, due to five turnovers. In retrospect, the game was over at that point, but to their credit, Providence continued to fight back. Two lay-ups and a free throw by Peterson trimmed the lead to 76-62 with 1:50 to play, and the Friars began fouling in hopes of cutting into the lead even more. However, Triche made 4-4 free throws in between misses by Brooks and a Council turnover, and a Skip Jardine three and Brooks' dunk closed the scoring.

"They have several pros on their team," said Keno Davis. "They can have a night when Wes Johnson beats you or Andy Rautins beats you or Arinze Oriaku beats you. A lot of guys can have big point nights."

The Orange buried PC inside. Onuaku and Kris Joseph (23 points, 9-11 shooting) were just too big for PC to contend with, and that contributed to a poor game by Bilal Dixon, who went scoreless in 29 minutes. Although Providence out-rebounded Syracuse 35-34, including 19-13 on the offensive boards, during the pivotal stretch to open the second half, the Cuse controlled the glass and had numerous second chance attempts. Peterson contributed 25 points on 10-20 shooting, including some spectacular dunks, along with 11 rebounds, but was unable to contain the opposing big men inside.

Cold shooting also helped to do in the Friars, as PC made just 6-21 threes, including only three by the guards. Meanwhile, Syracuse sizzled with 58% shooting (34-59), keyed by its success in piercing Providence's interior defense. Brooks contributed 14 points and attacked the rim well, while Council had 16 points, 5 rebounds, 9 assists, but also 5 turnovers. Other Friars, such as Brian McKenzie, Sharaud Curry and Duke Mondy, clearly struggled against the active, long Orange defense.

"We haven't seen a lot of 2-3 zone," said Davis. "But even if we had, we wouldn't have seen it with anybody like Syracuse's players."

Providence won't get much of a respite as the team returns to action for a noon tip-off on Saturday against a tough Marquette team that thrashed PC by a 93-63 tune earlier. The Friars will continue to preach defense and in this case, revenge, as the team returns home after two road losses.

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