Big East Game 3: Pittsburgh 83 – Providence 79

-During 2009’s meeting between the #1 Pittsburgh Panthers and the Providence College Friars at the Dunkin Donuts Center, I was stuck at URI taking an exam for my physiology class.  As I received a halftime update that PC was leading, I turned in my exam half completed and sprinted to my dorm room to watch the remainder of the game, promising that next time I would be there in person.  Last night that “next time” came, and the result was nearly similar to the last time, but the Friars’ youth got the best of them.

-I’ve always said that the difference between good teams and everybody else is the ability to execute and finish down the stretch.  Last night’s thriller in the Dunk was a perfect example of an experienced team in Pittsburgh that knows how to close games versus an extremely young team in Providence that is still trying to figure that out.  The two biggest plays of the game occurred when Marshon Brooks hit a fade away three with 1:31 remaining in the game to put the Friars up three.  The Friars then allowed the Panthers to score with 1:09 remaining, leaving the Friars up 1, but they had the ball and would surely look to waste nearly the entire shot clock to run off some time.  As Vincent Council dribbled down the court, he hesitated slightly, and then sent a pass over to Gerard Coleman on the wing.  Coleman seemed to slip, the ball hit off of his hands and rolled out of bounds.  At that point, I felt it in my gut that the game was just lost. Sure enough, Pittsburgh came down and at the 0:37 second mark, back-up point guard Travon Woodall nailed a three.  That turnover between Council and Coleman was huge.  An experienced team would have surely taken better care of the ball in that situation.  But, as much as it hurts now, sometimes these things need to happen to make this team better in the future.

-All is not lost from the heart breaker last night.  This Friars team continued to show the fight that is most important to see out of a young team.  PC knows that they are not the most talented team, and is certainly aware of their exceptional youth, so they are forced to try and win games but out-efforting other teams.  It is something that Keno preaches relentlessly, the best way for the Friars to steal wins is by out working their opponents.  That was very evident last night.  I don’t think that Pitt missed a three in the first half.  They were making nearly every shot that they took.  Yet, PC was not getting discouraged, continued to work their offense and get good looks.  Unlike Friars’ teams of old, they did not get into a three point shooting contest with the opposition.  They worked the block, played a bit of in-and-out game, throwing it down to both Dixon and Batts while the shooters spotted up for good shots.  I was very encouraged by what I saw last night, but that still doesn’t take away the bitter taste of defeat in my mouth.

-As you all probably know, I am not the biggest Marshon Brooks fan, but I’m finding it more difficult to find things to complain about.  Aside from a few bad shots (there are few things that I despise more than fast-break three-pointers), Marshon played one hell of a game.  Whenever a big play was needed, it seems that he came up with it.  Big shot after big shot, huge steals followed by great defensive effort, Marshon did what the Friars needed last night, lead this young team by example.

-Duke Mondy deserves my praises after that game too.  Mondy, single-handedly, kept the Friars in the game in the first half.  He had to make at least three or four steals in a matter of ten possessions.  PC’s press was working wonders against Pitt’s backcourt, and Mondy led the charge.  In the second half, Mondy made three huge three pointers that were the keys to the Friars’ comeback.  Mondy played by far his best game of the season on Tuesday night.

-Gerard Coleman and Kadeem Batts deserve mention here too.  As mentioned previously, Coleman made a few bone-head plays down the stretch that certainly didn’t help the Friars’ cause, but for a three or four minute stretch in the middle of the second half, Coleman carried the Friars offensively.  His best play of the game occurred on a drive to the right, where he skied up towards the rim and floated the ball over 6’10” Gary McGee.  Coleman was called for an offensive foul, which I loudly disagreed with, but that is the first bit of physicality that I’ve seen out of the kid all season.  Batts was forced into playing time throughout the entire game because of Bilal Dixon’s foul trouble, but he played better than I expected.  Batts gained 35 pounds of muscle since his arrival on campus, but I haven’t seen him use his newly added girth, until last night.  Kadeem was tangling underneath with Gary McGee all night, and although McGee got the better of him on the score sheet, Batts still had 9 points, 6 boars (5 offensive), and was 5-6 from the free throw line.  Kadeem also made a few huge plays down the stretch to take some of the pressure off of the Friars’ shooters.

-It is very rare that I complain about referees, but last night’s game was the most poorly officiated game that I have seen so far this season.  The refs just couldn’t get it right.  A fan vulgarly yelled behind me that he did not pay money to come watch the referees officiate the game, and he was exactly right.  Too many times, petty calls were made that ruined the flow of the game, killed the team’s momentum, and baffled me as a fan.  I’m not complaining in favor of the Friars either, the Panthers were victim to a few terrible calls too.  Sometimes referees try to control the game so much that they make the happenings on the court all about them, and like the fan behind me was yelling, that’s not what I pay to see.  I mean he called palming on Vincent Council with like 4 minutes left in the game…that’s ridiculous!

-After a loss, even with all of the positives that come of this one, the Friar’s deserve some criticism too.  Shortly after the game I received a text message from a friend of mine exclaiming that the performance that just occurred was why he was not a fan of Keno Davis as a coach.  I’m sorry, but I have to disagree.  Keno Davis is not allowed to go on to the court and run the offense.  He can’t hold Coleman’s hand and run him to the right spot, or whisper in Council’s ear where he wants the ball thrown.  I’ll admit, a few plays that were run out of timeouts were questionable.  I’m not a fan of calling a timeout and setting up a play that simply consists of Brooks going one-on-one.  Some inbounds plays didn’t work out either, but aside from that, how much can Keno truly get the blame?  The responsibility eventually needs to fall on the shoulders of the players.  Vincent Council did not play a good game.  Yes, he had 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 10 assists, but some of his decision making was not good.  Too many fast breaks did Council fly down the court, head to the rim looking for a foul, throw up a circus shot, and no call was made.  Council needs to be the calming influence and voice of reason on the court, and last night he wasn’t that.  Bilal Dixon needs to stay on the floor.  Dixon played against the most physical player he may see all season last night in Gary McGee, but that is no excuse.  Dixon’s size is something that the Friars desperately need.  No longer can foolish mistakes be blamed on youth.  The kid has played nearly 50 games in his Friar career, and it’s time to start acting like a veteran out there.

-Unlike what I saw before Big East play, the Friars depth is nearly non-existent.  Bryce Cotton, Ron Giplaye, Dre Evans, and Lee Goldsbrough are seeing virtually no time.  PC was gassed by the end of the game last night, and it could be seen over the last few possessions of the game.

NEXT GAME: Saturday, January 8th @ Rutgers, 8pm

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One Response

  1. I completely agree with your assessment of Council. I can’t stand reading articles or posts where people praise him non-stop because although he does make some amazing plays, he still plays too wildly to be reliable when it counts. They played hard, though, that was definitely the best game I’ve seen all season, though I would love to see some of the other players get some time. They’re going to be hurting when they need backup and they don’t have it.

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