Monday, March 2, 2009

Weyinmi Efejuku's 28 Points & Jeff Xavier's Big 3 Lead PC Past Rutgers

Weyinmi Efejuku was an outright monster in this game dropping 28 points, while hitting 6 of 7 shots from the field and an outstanding 15 of 17 from the free throw line. Jeff Xavier also came up with a big 3 down the stretch to help clinch the victory for the Friars. PC had to win this game to avoid a disastrous lost, but they also locked up a bye in the Big East tournament, which they should get credit for when it comes down to evaluating their NCAA credentials. Beating Villanova in their last game would definitely be a major plus though. I think that would be the clincher for PC's tournament hopes.

Here's the scoop on the game, via ProJo Sports:

With the season, and his teammates’ NCAA Tournament dreams, sitting on his shoulders yesterday, Jeff Xavier didn’t hesitate. The senior from Pawtucket who loves to take the big shot fired his biggest one in two years, drilling a deep wing 3-pointer to help the Providence Friars stem a Rutgers’ rally and secure a critical 73-66 win at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Xavier’s three was PC’s only field goal in the final 8:35 but it jump-started an offense that had suddenly grown cold as a 19-point lead melted down to 3. His shot also sparked a critical 9-2 run that countered the Scarlet Knights’ rally. “I know I love bigtime, crunch-time moments, just like everyone else in the locker room,” Xavier said. “I got the ball, looked at the basket and was kind of open, so I shot it.”

Xavier’s teammates, and the PC fans who were heard all game long amid a quiet RU crowd, breathed a sigh of relief when his shot settled into the net. “I passed it to him on the wing, but he was out there pretty good,” said Weyinmi Efejuku, who dominated the Rutgers’ defense all day long on his way to 28 points. “When he shot it, I just looked up and prayed.” While far from a prayer, the shot certainly helped answer PC’s serious need for another road victory. The Friars improved to 18-11 overall and their 10-7 record clinches a top-eight finish and a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament.

That achievement has been atop coach Keno Davis’ list of goals since the Friars dropped a few costly games in the non-league portion of their schedule. As fans and the media debate PC’s improving NCAA chances, Davis feels the upper-division finish will prove vital. “I felt like what was important is that we finished in the top half of the Big East,” said Davis. “If you finish in the top half of the best conference in the country, I can live with that, whether the (NCAA) puts us in or not. I feel like we’re deserving, but there are a lot of other coaches who feel the same way as well.”

The Friars can take another giant step toward their first NCAA bid in five seasons if they can upset Villanova on the road in the regular-season finale on Thursday. “We have an opportunity to go to Villanova and see if we can play at a high level there,” said Davis, “but it’s also going to be nice to go to the Big East Tournament having one day to watch the team we’re going to play. After Villanova, we’ll focus on the Big East and see if we can stick around down there as long as we can.”

As usual, the Friars made things very, very interesting. PC led by seven points at the half and built a 19-point second-half lead before Rutgers stormed back. The Friars hoped for a blazing start to the game and while they maintained control through the opening 20 minutes, they never found a strong offensive rhythm. PC jumped out to a 14-8 lead as Rutgers was awful out of the gate but the home team eventually settled down and made a few shots. A 6-0 run with about six minutes left actually gave RU a 20-18 lead but an Efejuku jam began an 11-2 run that included a deep Sharaud Curry 3-pointer, a driving layup by Geoff McDermott and a nice, coast-to-coast driving scoop by Curry. PC led at the break, 33-26, with Rutgers shooting just 34 percent from the floor.

That rate only got worse through the first 10 minutes of the second half and that helped the Friars race to what appeared to be a commanding 19-point lead (62-43). PC not only stopped the Scarlet Knights on defense but got out and ran the floor on offense and that led to numerous easy chances. Efejuku was the game’s dominant player as he continually got to the rim with power drives and he also hit a 3-pointer.

A 9-0 Friar run pushed the lead to 62-43 with 8:35 left as Brian McKenzie caught a Curry pass and dunked. But, from seemingly out of nowhere, Rutgers awoke. The Scarlet Knights began digging in on defense and PC turned the ball over every which way to help fuel a 16-0 run that sliced the Friars’ lead to 62-59 with three minutes to play.

Needing a big shot, Xavier provided one as he nailed a deep wing 3-pointer to push the lead back up to 65-59. Rutgers proceeded to turn the ball over on three of its next four possessions. “For moments we had a chance to extend the lead there, but a team like Rutgers at home, they’re not going away. They made a big run, but X made a really big shot,” said Efejuku.

As for what the 3-ball did for his team’s NCAA chances, Xavier says the Friars want to keep winning and take any guesswork out of the committee’s hands. “For the seniors and everyone in the locker room, we’ve never made it so this would be the best year of my life,” he said. “It’s every kid’s dream in college to play in the NCAA Tournament. This could be it.”
More: Providence College

No comments:

Post a Comment