Keno Davis got his first taste of the Providence College-URI rivalry on Saturday in front of a packed house at the newly renovated Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, as his Friars ground out a slim one-point victory over their rivals from South County.
Everyone in Rhode Island remembered the Friars' embarrassing loss to the Rams last year at the Ryan Center, and Keno Davis did not want to lose his first game against Baron's Boys.
Senior Geoff McDermott hit two clutch free throws with 17 seconds left to put the Friars up by one. Knowing that they had to play stout defense, the Friars were able to stop the Rams from scoring, and as the clock hit 0:00, they were able to escape with a narrow 66-65 victory, sending the crowd of nearly 13,000 into a frenzy.
URI fans, while loud and obnoxious, (PC Sucks chant? Super Creative!) were sent back to the boondocks, tails between their legs after the Friars shut down their golden boy Jimmy Baron in the second half, holding him to just two points.
Both teams started the game on fire, combining to shoot 45 percent from the field in the first half alone, with either team leading by no more than three points in that time span.
The stars in the first half was Jimmy Baron for URI, who had 16 points in the first, and Weyinmi Efejuku for the Friars, who chipped in 15 of his game high 21 points. After twenty minutes of intense action, the Rams led 39-38 as the horn sounded.
The second half featured a few small runs by the Rams, who kept distancing themselves, only to find the scrappy Friars clawing back into the game. The streaky Efejuku was on his game and drained a huge three to tie the game at 61 with 2:28 left.
The Friars were down 65-64 with 17 seconds left when Geoff McDermott hit two monster free throws to put the Friars up one. McDermott had missed two free throws earlier in the game, and the senior from New Rochelle said after the game that he was very nervous. It didn't show here, however.
After hitting the two shots, the Friars stopped the Rams and secured bragging rights for the next year at least.
To say that this game was a momentum boost is surely an understatement. After dropping three games early on in their non-conference schedule, the Friars needed to beat the Rams to bolster their tournament resume, provided they can get lucky and steal a few games from BIG EAST opponents.
The Friars are off for almost two weeks, as the players complete their final exams for the fall semester. They resume play versus Jackson State and will look to catch fire before starting BIG EAST play.
It was only one point, but this win could turn things around for the Friars, at least for the time being.