Hoya Second Half Run Sinks Friars

The Friars dropped their fourth consecutive game and sixth in their last seven, when they fell to 7th ranked Georgetown, 79-70, on Tuesday at the Dunk. Despite hanging close to the Hoyas, PC drops to 12-12 on the season and 4-8 in the Big East, and there is no relief in sight.

Life in the Big East has always been tough, and this season has been no exception. Many expected the league to drop off after last year's stellar performance, and with a number of great players having departed, but the 2009-10 season has shown the league to be as tough as ever. While the conference may not garner three number one seeds, as it did a year ago, the current stretch that Providence finds itself in, illustrates the point quite nicely. At #3 Syracuse, home to a tough Marquette team, home to #7 Georgetown, at #4 Villanova Saturday, home to #5 West Virginia and home to #2 Syracuse. Five games in six against national Top Ten squads.

Although the results and the won-loss record may contradict him, Keno Davis said, "I think this stretch is good for us. It's good for a young team to be able to see these types of teams back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Our players aren't here to just compete against the best teams in the country. We're here to try to become one of them. Seeing these teams will leave a lasting impression on what they need to do to improve in the off-season."

Georgetown (18-5, 8-4) is a team that out-sized Providence at every position, and the Hoyas bring in player after player off the bench that are equally as big, especially in the frontcourt. Twin monsters Greg Monroe and Julian Vaughn provide big, mobile athletes who can run, defend and score. Chris Wright and Austin Freeman give John Thompson III a backcourt duo that is physically strong and can shoot. Coming off a 103-90 win over Villanova, the Hoyas dare you to play a perfect game against them, because they pounce on every mistake.

Despite competing with Georgetown in the first half and matching intensity, PC never looked to be in any kind of offensive flow. The Hoyas led 16-9 and 22-15 after a Freeman jumper, before PC charged back with a 7-0 run on baskets by Bilal Dixon and Jamine Peterson and a three by Brian McKenzie, who played aggressively and effectively in the first half (6 points, 6 rebounds). Georgetown reclaimed a 27-22 lead, but Providence went on an 11-2 run, keyed by Peterson and Marshon Brooks' threes.
Sharaud Curry free throws and when Hollis Thompson missed a lay-up, the Friars had a chance to add to their lead. Brooks tried a bounce pass down low that clearly hit a Hoya foot, but the refs missed the kick, and instead of maintaining a Friar possession, Freeman raced down-court for a lay-up. After a Brooks' travel, the Friars nursed a slim 33-31 half-time lead.

Encouraging for Providence was the fact that, despite shooting just 11-29 from the floor and 8-14 from the foul line, the Friars led. PC had out-rebounded the Hoyas 19-15 and limited their turnovers to six. Still, Georgetown had shot 43% and was within two, with Monroe having attempted just one shot in the half after missing eight minutes with two fouls.

The second half started well for PC, as threes by Brooks and Peterson opened up a 41-33 advantage with 18:44 to play, and prompted a Thompson time-out. However, 18:44 is an eternity, and the Hoyas closed the lead to 43-40 on a Thompson jumper. A Peterson three pushed PC's edge to 47-40 but at the thirteen minute mark, Georgetown took over. The Hoyas went on a 14-1 run that ended with the visitor's up 54-48. Georgetown's run coincided with an insistence on pounding the ball inside, as Thompson worked a high-low post game between Monroe and Vaughn that resulted in a number of pretty passes and easy lay-ups, and Providence cooperated by firing up quick, perimeter jumpers early in the shot clock, and missing key free throws.

The game remained close and PC pulled within 56-54 on a Peterson free throw, but Georgetown responded with an 8-2 run on a series of run-out lay-ups against PC's press. "We tried the press late to try something different," said Davis. "They made the right plays and got lay-ups." With just over two minutes to play, and forced to foul, the Friars pulled within 75-70 on a series of Brooks' free throws, but Georgetown iced it by making their charity attempts, and another disappointing defeat was on the books.

Several statistics stood out in red neon flash paint. Georgetown outscored PC in the paint, 46-28, and that became pronounced in the second half. The Friars missed 12 free throws, negating their accomplished goal of getting to the line more. PC shot just 34% for the game, including 7-27 threes. PC's explosive offense was held in check, and the Friars ran very little effective offense in the second half. "We haven't been shooting very well," said Davis. "When you shoot a low percentage, you're going to give up four or five extra run-outs a game for easy baskets." On a positive note, PC out-rebounded a much bigger Hoya team, 42-21, including 22-9 on the offensive boards, resulting in a 20-8 second chance points advantage. Without that, PC gets blown out.

The disturbing trend of the offense grinding to a halt around the twelve minute mark of the second half continued against Georgetown. These three to four minute dry spells haunt the Friars, as opposing teams make runs at them, and wipe out leads. For the season, Providence is +99 in points scored in the first half of games, and –26 in points scored in the second half of games. Is it fatigue… inexperience that causes a young team to tighten up and press with a small lead and ten minutes to go? A recurring trend has been poor shot selection, one-on-one play, early shots in the shot clock and an abandoning of the offensive sets that had brought them to that point.

PC did a reasonable job on defense, mixing man and match-up zone, limiting Monroe to six shots, but the big man hurt the Friars with 12 points, a staggering 12 assists and 7 boards. Vaughn pitched in with 19 points on 9-13 shooting, Wright had 21 and Freeman 17, both on 7-12 shooting, as the Hoyas shot 61% in the second half, most from close range, and 52% for the game.

For Providence, Greedy Peterson led the way with 23 points (just 8-20 shooting) and 7 rebounds, and Dixon played well, with 16 rebounds, 6 points and 3 blocks. Brooks chipped in 18 points but was shaky in his decision making, Curry had 12, but shot poorly (4-12, 1-7 threes) and Vincent Council struggled, stripped a couple of times by Hoya guards, and scoring just 3 points (0-4, 3-6 from foul line).

Things get no easier for Providence, who invade Philadelphia for a 2:00 tussle on Saturday with #4 ranked Villanova. "As I watch Villanova," said Davis. "That's who I'd like to be in a couple of years."

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