The Friars can’t afford a letdown against Rutgers if it hopes to give itself a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. The Scarlet Knights aren’t playing particularly well and are right near the bottom of the conference, but when the teams met in Providence, the Friars nearly blew a big second-half lead when it fell asleep on defense, so Fred Hill’s club won’t be intimidated on its home court.
“Three-pointers” is a quick-hit interview with notable people in FRIARTOWN on the current state of the Friars.
John Rooke, aka the “Voice of the Friars”, was kind enough to take part via email.
John Rooke is an award-winning broadcaster, currently serving in several broadcast capacities, including 20 years as the play-by-play voice for Providence College basketball; Big East Conference football and basketball play-by-play for ESPNU, ESPN Regional Television and the ISP Sports Network; stadium voice for the New England Patriots and New England Revolution; host for Inside the Big East on ESPNU and several regional sports networks and local TV stations; and talk host for the ESPN Radio Network and WEEI Radio in Boston.
The Friars’ special night on Tuesday was only missing one thing — play-by-play announcer John Rooke. In addition to being PC’s radio man, John does about a dozen games per year on ESPN Regional TV. On Tuesday night, they asked him to do the ESPN2 broadcast of the Boston College-Florida State game — and basically, if ESPN asks for your help, you do NOT turn them down. This only happens maybe once or twice a year (conflicting games with the Friars), and Nelligan Sports and PC always gives him permission because, well, John rules.
1. Friarblog: You were doing the TV coverage for the Boston College – Florida State game on ESPN2 at 9 o’clock — did you get a chance to catch any of the Friars game as it was going on, or were you preparing for your game? How and when did you find out about the final score?
John Rooke: It turns out, of course…that I was met up at BC with looks of “what the hell are you doing here?” by most everyone I know! Even some of the TV personnel asked about it – and they were great about keeping me up to date on the scores. So was Dick Kelley at BC, their SID. Had his Blackberry out updating the score for me every few minutes…everyone kept saying “do you think they’ll keep the lead?” Fox’s Jeff Goodman was there – and he seemed to be pleasantly surprised by the news. And when it got to the final few minutes, we were in our full pre-game mode – I did the game with Tom Brennan and Andy Katz, who kept saying “wow” alot – pre-recording things for half time and going over our opening segment. It was VERY hard to concentrate on the job! I’ve worked several games with those guys before, and they were both pulling for me and the Friars. It was over, right as we were getting ready to go on the air – we were joined in progress as the event prior to ours went a couple of minutes long…and as soon as we got through the opening and the starting lineups, we got a call from Charlotte (ESPNU’s headquarters) to go ahead and talk about the big upset. Especially since they knew I was calling the game…even though we were doing an ACC game! Immediately, Tom and Andy threw me under the bus! But it was all in good fun, and the Friars got a ton of great publicity…probably alot more publicity this way than if I had done the PC game, as it turns out.
My son Austin DVR’d the game, so I watched it in its entirety Wednesday afternoon. Thrilling, and a bit surreal at the same time!
2. Friarblog: How different is it doing games for TV and ESPN as opposed to the radio?
John Rooke: I’ve been doing TV since 1981, and my preparation for television is the same as it is for radio. The only difference – I have to put on a stinkin’ tie. Hate that. And wear makeup. We were on HD Tuesday night, so good thing I didn’t have any blemishes! You try to put energy and preparation into the broadcast, but obviously, let the pictures do most of your talking. TV is an analysts’ venue…set up and support your partner, drive the show (or drive the bus, as I usually say)…radio is where good pbp announcers should excel, since you have to create the picture for your listeners.
3. Friarblog: Since you’ve been covering the Friars, where do you think this victory ranks among regular season games?
John Rooke: No doubt in my mind – the Pitt game ranks right up there in the top couple of games over my 20 seasons…with Duke, Arizona in ‘97…Georgetown (BE title) in ‘94…Eric Murdock’s 45 @ Arizona, and 48 (still the BE single game scoring record) against Pitt. This game could eventually top them all…but it really depends on what this team does from here. If this game ends up being a springboard to something else (like BE or NCAA success), then it could go down as one of the great games PERIOD in PC history. But I don’t think you can fairly judge it, until we know the eventual outcome of this season. Fans like to say that the loss at the Dunk to Pitt in ‘04 sent us into a sprial that eventually cost Tim Welsh his job. Maybe. But I don’t believe one game can really do that. That game in ‘04 was merely symbolic. So for now, that’s all this game is – symbolic of a moment when these seniors finally put it together, and perhaps symbolic of a new era that belongs to Keno Davis and his staff.
I’m thrilled for those kids, who got to enjoy their moment in the sun. The scene of Kale being swarmed by the court rush made me a bit teary-eyed…and happy for him and the rest of the seniors. Now – what do they do with this from here? Can they build on it? Hope so.
And 1: Friarblog: Did you talk to Joe Hassett at all that night? Is he going to let you back at the table for the Rutgers game?
John Rooke: Haven’t spoken to Joe yet…I’m sure he’ll throw me under the bus too…but my phone was choked with so many texts and voice mails, it shut down after the game!
Thank you John for adding more great stories to a great night in Friartown!
- With both teams having similar shooting nights, what was the difference? Turnovers played a huge part in this game, especially Pittsburgh’s carelessness in the first half. In that half, Providence was able to get 12 points off of 10 Pittsburgh turnovers. PC was really careful with the ball, and only committed 3 turnovers in the 1st — and Pittsburgh did not score off any of them. In the second half it was almost even. It seemed like most of the Friars turnovers came within the last few minutes after Pitt started to press them after made baskets. The Panthers were able to get 10 points off the Friars’ 6 turnovers. However, Providence kept up with that, getting 7 points off of 6 second half Pitt miscues.
- The free throw disparity was pretty large. Pitt was called for 24 fouls versus the PC’s 15. As a result, the Friars went to the line 29 times (25 of the them in the 2nd half) and really capilized by going 75% from the charity stripe. Weyinmi Efejuku was able to drive and get to the line a bunch — he was 9-10 .
- Although Pitt won the battle on the boards, PC really held their own. DeJuan Blair, who has been known to get 20+ rebounds, was held to only 8 boards (4 offensive, game high). Pitt had the overall rebounding advantage of 33-27, but only held a 12-9 offensive rebounding lead. Hanke and Xavier led the Friars with 2 offensive rebounds each, as Geoff McDermott had an unusual 3 rebound night (lowest since the Baylor game, in which he got hurt in).
The Friars only had a better rating against Syracuse, Seton Hall, and Cincinnati in BIG EAST conference games. Pretty impressive, considering Pittsburgh came into the game with the 27th best defensive rating in the country.
Pittsburgh Offensive Rating by Half:
1st Half – 74.6
2nd Half – 129.6
Pittsburgh actually came into the game with the #1 rated offense in efficiency, with a ridiculous 124.2 rating. While they got on track in the 2nd half against the Friars, their 105.8 overall rating was their 6th worst of the season — 3rd in BIG EAST games (Villanova: 87.4, Louisville: 86.7).
Providence Effective FG % by Half:
1st Half – 56%
2nd Half – 50%
Shocking statistic of the night was the fact that the Friars only took 12 three pointers — tying their season low that they also set in the Louisville game. They took a lot of inside shots, and were able to put together some good consistent shooting numbers.
Pittsburgh Effective FG % by Half:
1st Half – 41%
2nd Half – 63%
Pittsburgh hit their season average of eFG% right on the money. Of course they were not as good in the first half so they were constantly playing from behind.
OTHER STAT OF NOTE
Points in the Paint in the first half
LET’S SERVE SOME PASTA
Let’s judge some performances by dishing out some pasta (from 1-4, 4 being awesome). My homage to the Star-Ledger.
You all deserve the FOUR BOWLS OF PASTA!!!
Ashton Gibbs: I wonder why this guy was so awesome in drilling threes? Oh, he’ from JERSEY!
DeJuan Blair: Yeah he had 16 points and 8 rebounds…also had 5 turnovers and fouled out
Sam Young: Seriously how old is this guy?
Levance Fields: only 2-7 from the field and 7 points
The Providence College men’s basketball team (16-11, 8-7 BIG EAST) upset No. 1/1 Pittsburgh (25-2, 12-2 BIG EAST) by a score of 81-73 on Tuesday, February 24 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. It was just the second time Providence had knocked off the No. 1 team in the country and the first time since Dec. 29, 1976 when PC beat then No. 1 Michigan 82-81 in double overtime. With the win, PC improved to 2-10 all-time vs. top-ranked opponents.
The Friars pulled off the biggest upset possible, stunning number-one-ranked Pittsburgh, 81-73, before a delirious crowd of 11,887 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. It was PC’s second win ever over a top-ranked team, joining the historic, double-overtime victory over Michigan back in 1976.
After the final buzzer rang and the crowd had finished dancing onto the floor in celebration, the five seniors who painted a classic Senior Night masterpiece juggled a mixture of happiness, relief and excitement in their heads.
I haven’t had many games as a coach so I’d say yes,” said Davis. “I can’t think of one that would be more gratifying. To be able to do it when all the chips are down and everybody is writing you off, to come back and give that effort was great for our seniors.”
It also came on Senior Night, a wonderful sendoff for five PC seniors who have had a roller-coaster ride through the minefield that’s the Big East the last four years, five seniors who had a game last night out of some basketball fantasy, knocking off the No. 1 team in the country in their last game at The Dunk.
Tuesday night at The Dunk, however, it was the Friars’ big men who looked like the strongest players on the court. The combination of Jon Kale and Randall Hanke held the powerful Blair in check, and their efficient play against him was a key to Providence’s stunning victory.
Pawtucket native Jeff Xavier promised he wouldn’t become emotional. Then again, Senior Night has a way of touching the heart of even the thickest exteriors. The tears that poured out of Xavier Tuesday night were no question legit. Flanked by his parents, Alice and Pedro Xavier, along with fiancée, Marisa Seander, Xavier tried his best to compose himself as he made his way to center court.
For Geoff McDermott, Jeff Xavier, Randall Hanke, Jonathan Kale and Weyinmi Efejuku, better late than never. In a performance that rocked the foundation of college basketball, Providence College supplied the shockwaves by upsetting top-ranked Pittsburgh, 81-73, Tuesday night at a vibrant Dunkin’ Donuts Center. PC slays the nation’s No. 1 ranked team for the second time in school history, the first since 1976 when Michigan came to town possessor of the country’s top billing.
Immediately before the game, an old Friar legend made a bold prediction to the Friar Fanatic contingent in Purgatory Pit North. Ernie DiGregorio responded to yells of “ERNIE!” by saying, “We are definitely going to win tonight.”
As it turns out, when Ernie D makes a prediction, you had better listen.
Blair, the reigning Big East Player of the Week, averaged 21 points and 20.5 rebounds in wins over No. 1 Connecticut and DePaul that elevated the Panthers to the top spot on Monday. But he picked up two quick fouls – his third and fourth – midway through the second half.
Looking nothing like the No. 1 team in the nation — or a team that is threatening to make the NCAA tournament for much of the night — Pitt was defeated by Providence, 81-73, in a contest that could damage the Panthers’ hopes of landing the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament next month.
It was senior night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for the Providence Friars. The Friars’ bubble had seemingly been burst by their home loss to Notre Dame Saturday. Somehow that proved to be the perfect mix for the latest No. 1 upset in college basketball’s skittish season as Providence shocked Pitt.