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Friars win a slugfest, beat Villanova

Sunday, January 20, 2013


You've heard of the phrase "rock fight" when it comes to Big East basketball?

The term was coined after witnessing dozens of teams, in dozens of games throughout the 34-year history of the league, emphasize their defensive skills by stopping an opponent...more than showing off flashy offensive sets and a slick shooting touch.

It was either call it that, or just call the game plain ol' ugly.  "Ugly" might have been kind to Providence Saturday, although there was definite beauty with the end result in a 69-66 win over the Villanova Wildcats at the Dunkin Donuts Center.  

Or, as a wise coach once said "ol' ugly is better than ol' nuthin'."  And the Friars definitely got ol' somethin' for their efforts.

Despite missing nine of their first 10 shots from the floor, and nine of their first 12 free throws, PC managed to scrap their way into a 12-11 lead over the Wildcats with 9:11 to play in the first half.  That the Friars hadn't been buried by that time was a testament to an outstanding defensive effort, with PC utilizing man-to-man defense in their half-court sets, and full-court pressure on the Wildcat guards.  However, a 15-2 run by Nova, paced by sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston, gave the Wildcats a 26-14 edge with 5:06 to play in the period.

The Friars closed the deficit to seven at halftime, but it seemed like it was 17.  PC missed 15 of their final 18 shots of the half, hit just 6-for-30 (20%) in the opening 20 minutes, and managed a meek 11-for-20 from the foul line. 

But the saving grace was the defensive effort, along with offensive rebounding.  It was the first time this season Providence played man-to-man defense (rather than a zone) exclusively, and their full-court pressure was relentless in forcing 25 turnovers from the shaky Villanova (11-7, 2-3 Big East) guards.  An 8-0 run by PC put the Friars up 37-35 with 14:30 to play, but Pinkston - along with freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono and sophomore Darrun Hilliard - managed to keep the Cats close.  

It was 52-48 Villanova with 5:42 remaining when the Friars defensive pressure finally snapped the backs of the Wildcat ballhandlers.  PC went on a 17-5 run, as Bryce Cotton (24 points), Vincent Council (15 points) and Kris Dunn (career best 13 points) all contributed with drives to the hoop and short range jumpers, several coming after forcing Nova turnovers.  In a game that featured 55 fouls called (32 by the Wildcats), PC also finally found some range from the free throw line to help seal the win.  The Friars hit 29-of-48 from the stripe (60%), making more than the Wildcats attempted (17-of-25).  But Providence (10-8, 2-4 Big East) was also the aggressor on the offensive end, as a 41-35 rebound margin (19 offensive boards) would indicate.

PC held a 67-59 lead with :36 seconds left when James Bell hit a three, and a technical foul was called on Dunn, who was locked up in a scrum with Arcidiacono.  Arcidiacono hit two free throws, but Hilliard missed a deep three on the ensuing possession that could have tied the score.  Two free throws iced the game away for the Friars, giving them their first Big East win at home this season.  

They needed the ice, having just survived a rock fight with a long-time rival.

Friar Notes

"He's young, he's growing, he lost his mind and it almost cost us a basketball game," coach Ed Cooley said afterward about Dunn's technical foul late in the game. "That's something I won't let him forget. It will be a learning experience for him."  Dunn added seven rebounds to his season-best 13 points...Cotton led all scorers with 24, Council's 15 points was a season high...four players each grabbed seven rebounds in a strong effort on the backboards (Dunn, Kadeem Batts, LaDontae Henton and Sidiki Johnson)...the Friars shot just 34% for the game, their 2nd lowest total of the season (50% in the second half, however) and a mere 2-of-14 from the three point stripe...Pinkston led Villanova with 20 points, while Hilliard added 14 and Arcidiacono had 10.  The Wildcats shot 44% from the floor, 31% from three...but committed 25 turnovers that Providence turned into a whopping 30 points...a 19-9 edge on the offensive glass also proved decisive for the Friars, scoring 14 second chance points to nine for the Wildcats...the win snaps a streak in which Villanova had dominated Providence, winning nine of the past 10 in the series before Saturday...PC will next face Pittsburgh at the Dunkin Donuts Center Tuesday night, in a 7:00 pm start (6:45 pre-game on 103.7 FM)...


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