Friars Edged in Crunch Time

After leading for the majority of the game and being down only 1 in the final minute, Providence found Marquette's toughness and disciplined execution a little too much to handle. Led by senior leader Lazar Hayward, the Golden Eagles escaped Providence with a 82-79 road victory at the Dunk.

All teams experience their share of losses, but some take more out of you than others. The home loss to Marquette on Saturday had to weigh heavily on the Friars. After all, Providence knows it is in the midst an extremely tough stretch of games, and came out hard to try and grab a victory over a tough but unranked team that had previously blown them out in Milwaukee.

That effort included a man to man defense from wire to wire, which was intended to avoid the three point shooting clinic Marquette had put on in the Bradley Center. Providence also had to come out and rebound much better, limit turnovers, and continue to improve decision making on the offensive end. It all was a tall order for the Friars, who have been working to find the right on court chemistry all year, and are trying to match teams right now that are both more talented and more experienced.

In large part, Providence accomplished what they intended to do, at least for most of the game. The Friars limited Marquette to 36 points in the first half, and led by four at the break. Despite being outscored in the second half, PC led until the 11 minute mark, and played MU even until the last four minutes. Marquette made 11 three point shots in the game, but many were outside the half court offense in scramble situations. Providence kept pace with MU, and also out rebounded Marquette by 10, limited turnovers for most of the game, and pounded the ball in inside for 48 points in the paint.

Vincent Council played a large role in facilitating the offense, as the freshman point guard had 7 assists to go along with 9 points and only 1 turnover. That effort perfectly complimented a tremendous inside game from Bilal Dixon who played well on both ends and filled the stat sheet with 14 rebounds, 11 points, 3 blocks, two steals, and two assists. The redshirt freshman was simply outstanding in the game.

Greedy Peterson also had his double-double machine on display, and had a much more productive outing this time against Marquette, with an impressive 28 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Sharaud Curry also continued to flash his impressive shooting of late, going 9-15 from the field and scoring 23 points.

Despite strong games from four of the five Friar starters, it still wasn't enough. Providence is getting very little from its bench right now, and doesn't have the kind of total difference maker that Marquette has. To put it simply, Marquette senior Lazar Hayward would not let his team lose the game. Hayward put on the type of complete senior performance that Friar fans recall Eric Murdock leading his team with so many years ago. His stat line showed 4 steals, 4 assists, 1 block, and 9 rebounds. As for scoring, Hayward also had 28 points, which matched Greedy Peterson's game high scoring output. There may be more talented players in the Big East, but for this writer's money, there is no more complete player than Lazar Hayward, and Friar fans surely will be happy to see him move on to the NBA next year.

After maintaining a lead nearly until the midway point of the second half, the turning point came at the 12 minute mark, right after Sharaud Curry hit a big three point shot to extend the Friar lead to 5 points at 56-51. The Friars followed it with a good defensive set, and forced a Marquette miss on a contested shot. While Bilal Dixon gathered in the rebound, Lazar Hayward slipped behind him and knocked the ball loose, where it was picked up by Maurice Acker and quickly swung to an open David Cubillan who converted a huge three point shot. Instead of having the ball up 5 with a chance to go up more, the Friar lead was cut to 2 and the game would go back and forth from that point on.

Other key moments late in the game for Hayward included a crucial three point shot with 4:11 to go that broke open a deadlock that had existed since the 11 minute mark of the second half. He also had a key offensive rebound with 15 seconds left, and two made the two free throws that forced Providence to shoot a last second three pointer in an attempt to force overtime. These types of plays in all facets of the game were indicative of the things that Lazar Hayward did to keep his team in the game and ultimately in position to win. Without him, Providence surely wins the game.

While two late three point shots wrapped around a heady steal by Vincent Council nearly still saved the game for Providence, there just aren't enough players on the Friar squad who are ready yet or able to execute in tough late game situations. Providence was down 1 with the ball with 53 seconds to go, but once again did not a have a go to guy to get the key basket they needed in a half court set.

Keno Davis has tried numerous times to give that responsibility to Marshon Brooks, but the junior has not been quick enough with his decisions nor strong enough with the ball to get the job done when the Friars need a game winning basket. Brooks had a poor game Saturday, only scoring six points with four turnovers, including an offensive foul in the last four minutes and and a rejection on his final drive with the Friars down one in the last minute.

While Sharaud Curry has proven he can hit the late game shot, his small stature becomes a liability in half court sets once teams key on him in the final minute of a game. While a better defense would certainly help mitigate the need for a late game ‘closer' on this Friar team, the reality is that even with putting forth a good effort against Marquette, the Friar defense still gave up 82 points at a 51% scoring percentage for the Golden Eagles. Any expectation of improvement in PC's defense this year will likely not turn out to be dramatically better than what we witnessed against Marquette.

Keno Davis has stated that he's now devoting over half of his practices to improving the team's defense. That needs to continue, and the Friars must learn from the disciplined shot selection they witnessed from Marquette and continue to implement that sort of restraint into their own offense. The Friars need to continue get tougher, and they need to get smarter on the court.

Adding some quality talent next year won't hurt either, but there is plenty of improvement that still needs to take place this year. While it is true that the Friar offense is showing some signs of maturation with their decision making recently, there is still a long way to go, and the next lesson comes Tuesday against #6 Georgetown.

Scout Friars Top Stories