Jan. 20, 2003
Wednesday night was one of the stranger nights we've had at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The game against Louisiana-Lafayette just did not seem to have a lot of life to it. I don't know if it was because it was a non-league game after the Big East schedule had started, or because both teams were playing zone or what. But the game never really seemed to get into a great flow, and before you knew it it was over.
We were pleased with the win although we felt we should have taken control of that game earlier. I thought we were getting great looks against their zone in the first half but we couldn't knock anything down. It was good to see us adjust in the second half and get the ball inside more when the 3's weren't going down.
We really needed a W after the Villanova game to head to Blacksburg in a positive frame of mind. Going to Virginia Tech is never a lot of fun, but going after two straight losses would have been pretty painful.
Maybe when the season is over I'll write a column about the best and worst road trips in the league when I have a little more time, but Virginia Tech is probably the worst trip in the league for us. The travel is very difficult, usually involving 2 flights and a one hour bus ride, the weather is unpredictable, the town is a very small college town, the hotels aren't full service and the atmosphere in the arena is not great.
The school, Bob Driscoll and the athletic administration really stepped up for us by chartering a plane for this road trip. It is just another one of those little things that a lot of people don't know about that can really make a difference for your program. Instead of being in airports and worrying about connections on Friday, we flew right into Roanoke in one hour and twenty minutes, had something to eat and headed to Blacksburg for a good workout the night before the game.
When the game ended, we left Cassell Coliseum at around 10:00 and I was in my bed in Rhode Island at 1:15 AM. The travel was really easy, and it makes a big difference when you prepare for games. We were well rested and able to have a good practice yesterday, instead of spending the day traveling and then having only one day to prepare for Notre Dame. The commitment that Bob Driscoll, Father Smith and everyone involved have made to help us be successful is outstanding, and things like this will really pay off over the long haul for your program.
The game? Oh, yeah, I was afraid you were going to ask about that.
It wasn't pretty. Our goal coming out was to be disruptive to Virginia Tech and not allow them to get comfortable running their half-court sets, which they execute well when given room to operate. We really wanted to attack them and get them on their heels and force them to make some decisions on the run. They handled our defense well enough early, and that gave them some open looks. And man did they knock down those looks.
They came into the game shooting 35% from behind the 3-point line, and at halftime they had made 9-13 3's. We allowed them to get comfortable early and they got into a rhythm that we could not get them out of. All of the sudden they were knocking down 3's in transition. They made a couple of 25-footers, and they were pulling up off the dribble for 3 as well. All of the sudden guys who hadn't made 3's all year were turning into World B. Free. The halftime buzzer never sounded so good.
Sure, we ran into a hot team that was hungry for their first league win, but our defense allowed them to get into a flow. You can't just sit there after a game like that and say, "Hey, they made a ton of shots - everything they threw up went in."
Everything they threw up did go in, but we need to be able to stop that somehow. Our defense has to get better. You can't go on the road in the Big East without a great team defensive effort and expect to win. They made the plays with the ball that were better than the plays we were trying to make to stop them, and before it was all said and done they hung up 92 points on us. I've only been here for 5 years but I can't imagine Providence has won too many Big East games when their opponent scored in the 90's.
Luckily we've got a top 10 team coming into the Dunk next with an explosive offense. Notre Dame scored 98 points against Texas, so I don't think they are going to feel sorry for us having lost the other night. They can hang one on us if we don't have a great defensive effort. They are one of the best up-tempo offensive teams we will play.
One thing I know for sure is that we need you. I just finished watching Notre Dame lose to Creighton, and there is a common thread about their 3 losses (aside from the fact that they've all come against top 15 teams in America). They've all come in very hostile, loud environments. They lost to Creighton in Kansas City, where a ton of Creighton fans travel to and go nuts supporting their team. They lost to Pittsburgh in their new arena where their fans were just going insane. And they lost to Kentucky on Saturday in Rupp Arena, maybe one of the loudest and most difficult venues to play in in America.
They are 10-0 at home, and 0-2 on the road with the loss to Creighton coming at a "neutral" site. So let's make sure that tomorrow night they know they are on the road as soon as they enter the building.