Bruins

Basketball: It's been divine Providence this year

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Basketball: It's been divine Providence this year

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

PROVIDENCE -- Once again, Providence College is surprising people.

When the Friars hosted the Huskies on Wednesday, they also hosted a hoard of media, 11,137 fans, and plenty of expectations. Connecticut, after all, was playing inspired basketball.

Head coach Jim Calhoun was continuing his leave to "address some medical issues" for the third straight game. In the meantime, his team was winning -- and winning big.

UConn sauntered into the Dunkin' Donuts Center just days after knocking off the No. 1 Texas Longhorns. It was the biggest conceivable win for the up-and-down Huskies. Beating Texas bolstered their resume, gave them their swagger back, and launched them back into the much coveted top-25.

For Providence, it only made the target on UConn's back that much bigger.

That night the Friars stole the show. They out-muscled Connecticut on the glass, they shredded its defense, and they summoned both composure and intensity where UConn could not. As the buzzer sounded, fans poured over the Center's seats and thundered onto the hardwood in a rush to reach their team.

Final score from Providence: PC 81, UC 66.

"We were ready for this game," said freshman guard Vincent Council. "We know we can play with anyone; it's just a matter of going out there and playing hard and playing our game."

So to what degree was this really an upset?

Although UConn took its season further than Providence in all but one of the years in question, the Friars have beaten the Huskies 6 times in their last 10 meetings. Wednesday's win was the fourth for PC in five games. Connecticut was also visiting Rhode Island without having posted a single conference win on the road.

And it looked like UConn thought it proved all it needed to by beating the Longhorns over the weekend. PC, however, had a sizable chip on its shoulder from Saturday. First came the heart-breaking 109-105 overtime home loss to South Florida. It was an ugly ending, with the Bulls overcoming a 12-point deficit in the last two minutes to force OT.

Yet the fallout was worse. Coach Keno Davis, unhappy with his team's performance, publicly criticized his players.

"We don't have players who are able to stop one-on-one dribble penetration," Davis told the media. "We have some guys who are very good scorers that are big weak spots for us defensively."

The remarks drew criticism of their own for being thought harsh and Davis wasted little time personally accepting responsibility for the loss. What he did not do was backtrack. "I don't regret anything I said because we need players who are motivated to improve," he stated.

Clearly, something clicked.

Shutting down UConn's attempts at a comeback so completely gave the PC coach unbridled confidence. In the postgame he asserted that the victory was no fluke, stating that his Friars could beat any team in the country. Davis will get the chance to test that theory in the coming weeks. Six of Providence's next eight Big East games will be against nationally ranked teams: No. 4 Syracuse, No. 3 Villanova, No. 9 West Virginia, and No. 11 Georgetown. Can Providence compete with the upper half of the conference?

They have at least exceeded preseason expectations. In a late October coaches poll, 52 points put Providence at an estimated 13th-place finish in the Big East. A 4-4 record has the Friars locked into the middle of the pack with Notre Dame and Cincinnati.

With a 6-foot-8 center, the Friars are small compared to the bruisers in the Big East. They're also inexperienced. The roster this season is stocked with freshman as only three returning players from 2008-09 actually scored a point.

But sometimes small can work. It did against UConn. Providence actually out-rebounded the Huskies 53-38, something that Calhoun's second-in-command, George Blaney, said "never happens." PC also managed to score more points in the paint (44-32) by spreading their offense and attacking the gaps.

On the other hand, inexperience is what caused the Friars to fall to South Florida. A missed dunk by Jamine Peterson was the first thread pulled in their unraveling. A Marshon Brooks turnover followed, and a couple of Vincent Council misses from the charity stripe failed to protect the lead. Add in a trepid defense that's afraid to foul and sloppy, rushed passing, and it's not hard to imagine that Syracuse or Villanova could rip Providence to shreds.

No matter what happens, Keno Davis is hanging on to his trademark hard-line optimism. And one would be wise to keep an eye on PC in the coming weeks.

They might surprise you again.

Morning Skate: Chiarelli taking heat in Edmonton

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Morning Skate: Chiarelli taking heat in Edmonton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after a rough weekend for the Justice League movie. 

 

*Radko Gudas was suspended for 10 games after slashing at the head of Mathieu Perreault, and it’s an appropriate sentence for a play that has no place in the NHL, and from a player that really deserves to get slapped around by the Department of Player Safety. Some like the Hockey News here believe it should have been a more severe suspension, but this is the right move with a player that’s headed toward a Raffi Torres sentence the next time he crosses over the line. Let’s hope the message finally gets through to a dirty player, but I’m not holding my breath given his past history.  

 

*Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is beginning to take some heat in Edmonton with a hockey team that’s performing way under expectations to this point. 

 

*All Alexander Radulov wanted was to feel like he was wanted, you guys. The Dallas Stars just so happened to say that to him in the form of money and contract years. 

 

*NHL.com does a Calder Trophy voting poll with their own staff and it looks like Clayton Keller is strongly in the lead, and that Charlie McAvoy isn’t getting nearly the mount of consideration that he should be getting right now. This is the only rookie averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game, people…c’mon now. 

 

*It’s officially over for the Montreal Canadiens just a couple of months into the season, and it may be for GM Marc Bergevin as well. I’m not sure the Habs are dead and buried quite yet, but Carey Price as a question mark certainly doesn’t help matters. 

 

*Hall of Famers Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were both honored in Anaheim this weekend after their Hockey Hall of Fame honors last weekend. 

 

*For something completely different: Here’s a petition for fans to get a home release of the Zack Snyder cut of the Justice League movie. These people thirsting for ponderous, bombastic drudgery in their comic book movies amazes me. While I feel for Snyder and his family given their tragedy over the last year, I think his movies are god-awful and can’t fathom why anybody would be pounding the table demanding to see a cut that left the DC and Warner Brothers execs running and screaming for Joss Whedon. 

Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996, died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43. 

Bill Belichick coached Glenn as an assistant with the Patriots during Glenn's rookie season. He was later Glenn's head coach in 2000 and 2001. Belichick traded Glenn to the Packers before the 2002 season after a tumultuous run in New England that involved legal trouble, injuries and clashes with the coaching staff.

During a conference call with reporters soon after the news of Glenn's death was published, Belichick remembered Glenn for his natural physical ability and "a good heart."

"I was pretty close with Terry," Belichick said, "and his rookie season was my first year here in '96, and so I had a lot of interaction with him and other people that were involved in his life and his upbringing separate from the Patriots. Terry's a very smart individual. Had a lot of, obviously, a lot of physical skill and talent. Could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. And I think he was deep down inside a good person with good intentions and, you know, a good heart. Obviously it's very unfortunate. Very unfortunate passing. I mean, it's a sad day. Sad news."

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiancee at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.