Friars Drop Another

The losing streak continues for Providence and its fans. After leading for most of the game at South Florida, Providence once again let a combination poor defense, missed free throws, and a lack of execution late squander a potential win.

Maybe had the Friars not gone 11-22 from the free throw line it would have been different. Maybe had they not given up 57% from the field on countless transition lay ups, (including the winning basket) they might have won going away. However, Providence is a fatally flawed team this year, and couldn't do enough good to avoid a second painful loss to the USF Bulls this season. Providence gave up 99 points for the second game in a row, losing 99-93 in Tampa.

This was a back and forth affair throughout although the Friars seemed to have the better firepower for most of the contest. The problem as always was that their defense gives all the points back. Even though they led by 9 points late in the game, you never felt the Friar lead was safe. It appeared the only time USF missed a shot was when they lacked the patience to take a quality attempt within 3 feet of the basket. The Bulls came back quickly on the Friars as they had all game long and took the lead in the last two minutes. Sound all that different from the game in Providence?

A big Sharaud Curry three point shot gave Providence the lead back by one with 17 seconds left, but Friar fans could not so much as catch their breath before Dominique Jones was receiving a pass at half court and cruising in for the winning basket - with a foul - and a technical on Curry for pounding the ball into the floor in frustration. Game over.

It would be easy to try and make Curry the goat in this game, but in reality he's not. Curry actually had the best game of any Friar, with 26 points, 5 assists, 0 turnovers, and three rebounds. He was the one best stepping up to make plays late, while his teammates were too often missing key free throws, giving up second chance points, missing open looks, and dribbling into double teams.

The Friars got solid production out of freshman Vincent Council who shot well and had 11 points, and James Still and Ray Hall combined for 6 points and 5 rebounds with Bilal Dixon limited to 15 minutes due to foul trouble. That's solid production off the bench but clearly not enough to make up for the problems that most of the starters had. Besides finding inopportune times to shoot 50% from the free throw line, the Friar have simply not been good enough on defense all year and their execution in crunch time has fallen short in too many close games. The lack of execution late is part of being an inexperienced team and is somewhat understandable with the younger players, but the porous defense is harder to excuse.

Providence was never going to be a great defensive team this year, but they certainly could have been better than what we've seen. Jamine Peterson is a gifted athlete and prolific rebounder and scorer, but he's still letting his team down with his lack of defensive effort for long stretches of the game. Marshon Brooks is also not working hard enough defensively. These players are capable of doing much more on defense. That is what their team desperately needs more than anything. It is on defense that these players can best show their leadership.

While the Friars get their share of steals and blocks using their speed and athleticism, it is the lack of the old fashioned contesting of shots where they are not getting the job done. Being careful about picking up fouls is one thing, but being careless with your defensive effort is another. The Friars need their most talented players on the court to have a chance to win games, but every starter has to living up to their obligations on the defensive end, and not hustling back on defense, and not contesting enough of the opposition's shots is not winning basketball. Unfortunately the coaching staff also doesn't appear to have found enough alternatives on the bench to hold players accountable for that.

Now the Friars travel to the Oakland Zoo to take on over achieving Pittsburgh, who never lacks for defensive effort. It will be another uphill battle for Providence. The season is winding down, and the Friars have this last road trip plus one more home game vs. Seton Hall and the Big East Tournament to prove they want to play better defensively, and want to start building something defensively for next year.

The Friars have had an awful tough go of it against a lot of incredibly talented teams, and it has made them look worse than they really are. They are a very productive offensive team outside of closing games, but just plain bad defensively. The latest setback at South Florida has demonstrated that the real solutions to PC's struggles will not be found in the vagaries of the schedule, but within themselves.

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