Thursday, January 22, 2004

Wildcats Fall AGAIN at Providence, 62-56

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

As to why Villanova can't win there... for an off-campus venue, it's a tough
place to play. It is regularly rated as one of the toughest home courts in
the Big East, and unquestionably the most arduous of the off-campus arenas in
the conference. Also, Providence doesn't have major-league sports of its own,
and so the already passionate PC students' ranks are swelled by the support of
the community at large.

Villanova fell to 10-6 overall, 2-2 Big East, while Providence improved to
12-3 overall, 3-1 Big East. Providence's Ryan Gomes led all scorers with 27
points, which he attained with excellent numbers: 10-14 shooting, including 5-6
from three-point range. Marcus Douthit (11 points) and Tuuka Kuotti (10
points) also reached double figures for PC. For Villanova, Allan Ray paced the
Wildcats with 21 points on 8-19 shooting. Jason Fraser continued his superb play
of late, achieving yet another double-double, with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Unfortunately, Ray was the only 'Cat to truly pack his "A" shooting game on
the trip to frigid New England. Villanova had averaged a remarkable 85 points
in its three previous Big East contests, but was held to only 56 points at
Providence. The 'Cats once again received literally no help from their thin
bench, who scored no points. And that became fatal when both Mike Nardi and Randy
Foye had bad nights. The pair combined for an atrocious 1-18 from the floor.
Although for some reason, they also combined for a perfect 11-11 from the
line. There's no way to quantify that as a record, but it's pretty rare to see
not one but TWO guys have such a horrible night from the floor, but be
automatic from the foul line. Thanks to their accuracy, Villanova enjoyed a near
perfect 12-13 (92%) foul shooting night (Derrick Snowden was the only guy to miss
a free throw).

It was also Villanova's fourth straight defeat at the Dunkin' Donuts Arena.
The last victory there came on January 20, 2000; prior to that victory,
Villanova had dropped eight in a row there, since winning on January 13, 1990, by a
lopsided 102-74 margin. (Perhaps that game exhausted all of Villanova's luck
in Providence for a decade or so.)

Fortunately, the Wildcats will have another shot at defeating the Friars,
this time on the Main Line, as PC is one of only three Big East squads 'Nova will
face twice this season. Providence visits the Wildcats on February 11.
Providence struggles at the Pavilion, almost as much as Villanova struggles up
there, so it evens out a bit. Nonetheless, this loss still marked another
setback in recent years against the Friars. Regardless of venue, it was Villanova's
fifth loss in its last seven clashes with Providence.

Villanova took a brief 5-2 lead, before PC went on a 11-0 run, taking a
substantial lead, which it wouldn't relinquish until the second half. At the
under-eight-minute timeout, PC held only a 23-17 lead, but was shooting a strong
53% from the floor. 'Nova hung in there, treading water, and managed to stay
within seven at halftime, 34-27.

From one perspective, the 'Cats were fortunate to even be in the game on the
road, as they were shooting only 11-28 from the floor (39%), while allowing PC
to shoot 50%, and had taken only one free throw attempt while also committing
nine turnovers. A strong rebounding edge (17-10) was probably what was
keeping the 'Cats within hailing distance. It also didn't help that the 'Cats were
getting no help from their bench; only four players had scored (led by Ray
with 11) and one of the four, Randy Foye, had only two points. Ryan Gomes had
13 to lead PC.

Villanova made a spirited comeback in the second half, knotting the game at
45 just over the midway point, when Ray nailed a triple at the 9:15 mark. Then
Ray gave 'Nova its first lead in quite a while, with just over seven minutes
to play, at 47-45. Unfortunately, the 'Cats really didn't have an answer for
Gomes, who kept coming up with big shots and pushing the 'Cats back. Ray's
NBA-distance three pulled 'Nova within 55-52 with just over three minutes to
play, but the Wildcats couldn't get over the hump. The coup de grace came when
PC's Donnie McGrath (after struggling ALL night - he was 3-13 from the floor)
hit a huge three with 1:10 to go, putting the Friars up 60-54. The final ended
up 62-56.

Surprisingly, in light of Villanova's horrendous decade-plus slump in
Providence, the Wildcats used to win on a semi-regular basis there. All-time,
Villanova is still 8-15 at the Providence Civic Center/Dunkin' Donuts Arena, which
isn't bad given that the Wildcats have only one victory there since 1990.
While the game at Providence is always penciled in as a loss, due to Villanova's
dismal history there, it would have been a good road win and offset the
Wildcats' inability to stop Notre Dame at home in the conference opener.

After all the offseason chaos, it is enjoyable to see the familiar rivalries
again. This was the 76th overall meeting between the schools, and Villanova
now leads the series, 43-33. As members of the Big East, 'Nova holds a 25-20
advantage, but somehow has also won five of six from Providence in conference
tournament play.

Villanova continues its two-game road trip in far more hospitable climes,
zooming south to sunny Miami this weekend in what will likely be its last journey
there for a while, as the Hurricanes will be packing their bags for the ACC
soon. Miami may spend only next season in the Big East, and since Villanova
heads there this year, Miami would probably come back here next season for the
lone game. It's virtually certain that the teams will meet only once next
year, since they play twice this year. The Wildcats will face Miami on Sunday at

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