Friars Open Eyes With Win Over Marquette

By David Scott - January 04, 2007

PROVIDENCE - Take away two games in the Sunshine State (losses at Florida and Florida State) and an inexplicable home defeat to Brown, and these Providence Friars would be 14-0, nationally-ranked and the talk of college hoops in the Northeast.

As it is, the Friars, now 11-3 (1-0 in the Big East) are playing as if they should be in the Top 25. Thursday night’s 74-59 win over No. 15/21 Marquette (13-3, 0-1) before 8,954 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center will certainly open some eyes to the Friars viability in the Big East.

“It was a high energy, high intensity game,” said Friars head coach Tim Welsh. “We’re very happy with our effort tonight.”

It was an all-around effort of the highest order as PC placed four scorers in double figures, out-rebounded the Golden Eagles 42-31 and had two players with double-doubles (Geoff McDermott with 11 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds and Weyinmi Efejuku with 18 points and 10 rebounds). The game’s high-scorer, Herbert Hill also filled the stat sheet with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, with nine rebounds and seven blocks.

“Herb played with tremendous confidence tonight and played like he was thinking he could score on anybody,” said Welsh. “He really wanted to go tonight. He had the look of a killer. Sometimes he defers to other people and I don’t like when he does that. But tonight, he was taking it hard. Even when he was not in scoring position, he would take it hard to get into scoring position.”

Hill’s teammates noticed the difference.

“Herb? Oh man. He played great tonight,” said freshman guard Dwain Williams (who started for the suspended Sharaud Curry, who is sitting out due to a violation of team rules). “He led us in all aspects, rebounding, blocking shots. He was hungry tonight, he really wanted it.”

The entire Friar squad played with that hunger and tenacity as the team held Marquette (who was without second-leading scorer Jerel McNeal who suffered a noggin knocker in practice earlier this week) to 31.1 percent shooting from the field (and just 4 of 23 from 3-point land). By the time the game was four minutes old, Providence had jumped out to 10-2 lead and never trailed the rest of the way. The closest the Golden Eagles could get was within five points with 17:11 left in the game, as PC then extended to as many as 16, late in the game.

"Providence is a very aggressive, tough-minded team - as is the rest of the Big East," said Marquette coach, Tom Crean. "We've got to join that party."

McDermott especially turned it on in the second stanza, scoring nine of his 11 points and grabbing six of his nine rebounds.

“(McDermott) brings it all,” said Welsh. “The comparisons to (former Friar and current Celtic) Ryan (Gomes) are there. He’s a winner and I just stay away from him when I see that blood in his eyes.”

That blood was flowing through the Friars all evening long and if it continues running, PC will be able to forget all about its 0-fer in the Sunshine State and maybe even the 51-41 loss to Brown. Welsh, for his part is already trying to erase that memory completely.

“Every year teams go through a game like that Brown one, a wake-up call,” said Welsh. “That was a devastating night for me, but we learned a lot about our team.”

Now, the rest of the nation might start to learn a bit about Welsh’s Friars.

. . . Welsh said after the game that Curry will be allowed to play after sitting out one more game, against Seton Hall on Saturday. That means Curry will be back in the line-up for the Friars' January 13 game at Louisville. The supsension of Curry could go a long way in deepening the Friars in the long run, as Dwain Williams gave Welsh some solid minutes at the guard spot.

. . . The Friars, who were opening their conference schedule at home for the first time since 2000, also won their league opener for the first time since 2003.

Posted by David Scott at 10:55 PM on January 04, 2007

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