Thursday, February 19, 2009

PC's Defense Exposed Once Again Against Louisville

The Friars poor defense got them in trouble again last night in their loss to Louisville, via ProJo Sports:

The Providence College Friars learned the hard way Wednesday night why coaches harp on playing a complete game. Less than three minutes of sloppy play took Providence (16-10, 8-6 in the Big East) from upset alert against seventh-ranked Louisville to an unspectacular 94-76 loss at Freedom Hall. With four games remaining, including home matchups with Big East opponents Notre Dame and No. 4 Pittsburgh, the Friars still need a high-profile win to have a realistic opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament.

"What I told my team after the game was that for 20 minutes we played like we had a chance out there," Providence coach Keno Davis said. "(In the second half) they showed that they are a better team than we are right now. With four games left, we have to improve as a team and play through more physical contact. It doesn’t get any easier in the Big East."

After a stellar first half that saw Providence and Louisville swap leads nine times, the Friars came unhinged during a three-minute stretch of the second half and it cost them the game. The Friars held the Cardinals (20-5, 11-2) scoreless for 4:35 early in the half and led, 53-50, with 14:30 remaining. Then the game took a sharp turn for the worst. The Friars committed four turnovers in five possessions, which Louisville converted into nine points and a 59-53 lead.

Then, after a Jerry Smith layup made it 61-53, Davis was whistled for a technical foul. Smith hit both free throws, and in 2:26, the Friar’s three-point lead became a 10-point deficit. Over the next four minutes, the 13-0 run grew to 19-1 and a 69-54 Cardinals lead with little more than eight minutes left. During the run, Providence was largely forsaken by its offensive rebounding; the Friars took one shot or less on nine straight possessions.

The Friars never made a serious run from there. After shooting 75 percent (18 of 24) from the field in the first half, Providence hit only 9 of 30 (30 percent) in the second. "We shot lights out in the first half," said Providence guard Jeff Xavier, who had 12 points. "But we knew we weren’t going to score 46 points again in the second half against a Rick Pitino-coached team and that we would have to play defense. We started to miss some shots that we hit in the first half, and they started to take over after that."

Once again PC's horrific defense caused them to lose a game that could have been a signature win for their NCAA Tournament resume. In fact, this was the worst defense they played all season giving up 131 points per 100 possessions and allowing Louisville to have a 61.7% effective FG%. The same Louisville team that is 111th overall in effective FG%, shooting 50.7% on the year. That is not good news for the Friars coming down the stretch, who are going to need their defensive play to step it up. They need to win 3 of their next 4 games to have any hope of earning an at-large bid or else they will have to do some serious damage in the Big East Tournament. I have a hard time believing they stand any chance of beating Pitt, so they are going to have to take care of business against Notre Dame at home and they try to knock off Villanova and Rutgers on the road.

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