Friars Pass, Shoot Way Past WVU

A 2-3 defense is usually strong against offensive players on the baseline, but Providence's Ryan Gomes went against the odds to destroy WVU from that location in the Friar's 73-50 opening round win.

Gomes hit 11 of his 18 shots from the field, and many of those were jumpers and floaters from the baseline over WVU's outmanned front line. WVU, forced to defend Friar forwards on the perimeter, allowed Gomes to roam free out to about fifteen feet, and the big forward made the Mountaineers pay by hitting shot after shot.

"I knew it was going to be a tough one for us if they made any type of 15 foot shots, because they are very good at taking care of the ball," head coach John Beilein said afterward. "In the 2-3, they did a great job of getting our forward out, and making our center come out and guard him (Gomes). They are so quick with that, and we couldn't quite get there."

Gomes had help on the offensive end, as Providence forwards repeatedly jumped over smaller Mountaineer opponents to grab rebounds, especially on the offensive end. The Friars finished with 43 rebounds, 21 of them on the offensive glass.

That's an old story for West Virginia this year, but it was never so damaging as it was on Wednesday afternoon. On the occasions when WVU was able to force a miss, players such as Marcus Douthit (seven rebounds) or Tuukka Kotti (six) were there to snare second and third chances for the Friars.

Offensively, the Mountaineers were frustrated by Providence's trapping 2-3 defense, which extended out to the three point lines and often double teamed West Virginia players on the perimeter. Kevin Pittsnogle and Joe Herber were doubled almost every time they touched the ball, and as a result the WVU attack broke down repeatedly in the first half.

"We were prepared for the traps, but sometimes you've got to have experienced players who are strong with the ball," Beilein explained afterward. We worked endlessly on traps all week, but they are better at it than we are. We have to improve our site lines the next time we face a team like that."

Compounding the offensive problems was foul trouble for both Joe Herber and Tyrone Sally, each of whom had three in the opening half. With the director of the Mountaineer attack on the bench, and one of WVU's few frontline rebounders sidelined, the Mountaineers had little chance against the Providence onslaught.

The Friars hit 48% of their shots in the first half, and added 13 more from the line on 17 tries in piling up a 17 point halftime lead at 44-27. the score was punctuated by a Gomes dunk in the closing seconds that punctuated an outstanding half for Providence.

WVU tried to rally in the second half, but was never able to cut the lead into single digits as the Friars continued their effective play. Providence passed the ball well and protected it even better, committing only nine turnovers, in the contest.

WVU finishes the season at 14-15, and will miss out on a hoped-for NIT bid.

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