Feb. 3, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - A fierce Villanova rally over the final minutes was snuffed out by a clutch 3-pointer by Providence's Bryce Cotton that snapped a 52-52 tie and gave the Friars a 55-52 victory here this afternoon in a BIG EAST game. Providence evens its overall record at 11-11, 3-7 in conference action while the Wildcats fall to 13-9 overall, 4-5 BIG EAST.
"That was a tough game," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "I thought there were periods where we were playing really well and doing the things we wanted to do. This was similar to our Notre Dame game. I thought we were doing good things offensively and then we just didn't execute offensively for a three minute stretch and then gave up threes at the other end. It ended up being the difference in the game."< p> Cotton paced the Friars with 18 points, including four 3-pointers. Sophomore Darrun Hilliard led Villanova with 17 points.
One stat line stood above the rest: Providence connected on 10-of-15 of its 3-point attempts (.667), including the final one by Cotton. The Wildcats, however, connected on just 2-of-15 (.133) from distance, a season-low. After draining nine threes on Jan. 26 in a win over No. 3 Syracuse, VU has made just five in its last two games, both losses, and none after intermission today.
Villanova grabbed the early advantage on the strength of four interior points from senior center Mouphtaou Yarou and a 3-pointer from Darrun Hilliard. It was 7-2 after four minutes of action inside the Pavilion.
The Wildcats were able to extend the lead to 16-6 midway through the first half largely on the work of their defense and rebounding. But the Friars reeled off the next 12 points as they took advantage of offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive. A 3-point goal by Josh Fortune lifted the Friars into their first lead, 18-16, with just over six minutes to play in the first half.
Following a pair of Hilliard free throws that tied matters at 18, Fortune's third three of the half gave the Friars a 21-18 lead. The Friars went on to craft a 29-23 edge thanks in large part to 6-of-8 shooting (.750) from beyond the arc. Villanova meanwhile, sank only 7-of-26 (.267) from the floor in the first half, including 2-of-8 (.250) from triple territory.
"Once you let a guy get it going like that at this level," stated Wright of Fortune, "it's tough."
Fortune led the Friars with 12 first half points while Cotton added eight. Hilliard's nine points were tops for Villanova in the first 20 minutes.
As it did in the first half, Villanova was strong early in the second period. A designed lob for a James Bell dunk gave the Wildcats back the lead at 32-31 and was followed by a Hilliard steal and basket that made it 34-31 with 17:09 remaining on the second half clock. A Daniel Ochefu made it 35-31 with 15:54 left.
The Friars, though, bounced back with a pair of baskets to tie the game at 35.
A Vincent Council triple gave the Friars back the lead at 43-41and that was followed by another from Cotton as part of a 10-0 run midway through the period that put Providence back in control. Providence drained 9 of its first 13 threes on the afternoon while the Wildcats struggled to produce points.
The scoring drought became the story of the second half as Providence's ability to keep getting stops allowed it to slowly establish control, much as Pittsburgh had done in its 58-43 victory here on Jan. 16. The lead grew to 52-43 before a James Bell drive snapped the spell and was followed by a free throw to close the margin to 52-46 with 2:11 left on the clock in regulation.
The Cats' applied heavy pressure to force three consecutive Friar turnovers and pulled back to tie it at 52 after Bell sank two free throws with 42.9 seconds left. A Kris Dunn miss on the next possession was collected by Fortune near the foul line, who fed the basketball back out to Cotton near the top of the key. The junior dribbled before drilling a step-back 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to provide the pivotal basket of the contest.
"In that sequence, I'm disappointed we didn't get the rebound," stated Wright. "We had a good defensive possession but you have to finish that by getting the rebound. I thought we did a pretty good job of limiting them on the offensive glass but they hurt us with the biggest one of the game."
The Wildcats will have a quick turnaround as a game with DePaul looms on Tuesday evening at All-State Arena in Rosemont, Ill. (7:00 p.m./ESPN2/SportsRadio 610 WIP).
"We'll practice tomorrow morning and get ready to go out to Chicago," stated Wright.