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Wildcats Fall To No. 24 Providence, 100-74
Allan Ray dishes off the ball during the first half against Providence.
 
Allan Ray dishes off the ball during the first half against Providence.
 

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Defense helped Providence to a quick start and the offense took over from there as the 24th-ranked Friars handed Villanova its worst loss of the season Wednesday night.

Providence (16-5, 7-3 Big East) forced the Wildcats into turnovers on their first five possessions, and the Friars then went a season-best 31-of-51 from the field, including 15-of-25 from 3-point range, in the 100-74 victory.

"We just jumped out right away and never had a look like we were going to fade," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "When we shoot the ball like that, we can be very dangerous."

Donnie McGrath and Ryan Gomes each had 23 points for the Friars, while Sheiku Kabba added 20.

McGrath, who had 20 points in the second half in matching his career high, was 6-for-8 from beyond the arc, eclipsing his previous career high of five 3-pointers.

"We were unselfish and everybody was making the extra pass," McGrath said. "We were getting open looks and that's one of the reasons we were making our shots. Most of the games when we're hitting our 3s, we win big."

The win was so big, in fact, that it was the worst defeat in the 18-year history of Villanova's Pavilion and only the second time an opponent has reached 100 points.

"They really took it to us," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

The Wildcats (13-9, 5-4) struggled from the start as Providence opened the game by scoring the first 10 points when the Wildcats committed the opening five turnovers. Villanova finished three short of its season high with 20 turnovers.

"Turning the ball over on the first five possessions in a game like that puts you in a hole," Wright said. "And they're too good of a team to recover from a hole like that."

It was especially difficult for Villanova to come back against an offense that was hitting on all cylinders.

"Our offense was pretty special tonight," Welsh said. "When we push the ball and attack, we get the defense feeling like they have to help and our guys have a sense of finding gaps (in the defense).

 

 

"We can get open looks and we have guys who can make shots."

Curtis Sumpter had 20 points and Randy Foye added 11 for Villanova.

After committing 10 turnovers in the first half, including those five straight to start the game, Villanova was hurt by miscues at the start of the second half as well.

The Wildcats turned the ball over four times in the opening 3:20 of the second half and Providence went up 57-39 on Gomes' follow layup with 16:22 left.

Villanova twice closed within 12 points over the next 4 minutes, the last with 11:53 left, when Sumpter's two free throws made it 64-52.

But the Friars scored nine straight points over the next 1:53 to stretch the lead to 73-52, their biggest to that point.

Villanova never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way.

"Give them credit," Wright said of the turnovers, "they had a good game plan against us, and we were too sloppy. We turned it over and that was our goal going into the game, not to turn it over."

The Wildcats' average margin of defeat coming in was 6.3 points, with a 73-57 loss to Memphis on Jan. 6, their previous worst of the season.

Mike Nardi's 3-pointer 3:12 into the game was the Wildcats' first field goal attempt.

The Friars hit 11 of 15 shots, including going 6-of-8 on 3s, to take a 31-17 lead with 7:53 left in the first half. The margin grew to 19 points on Kabba's 3-pointer with 1:03 left in the half.

The Wildcats closed the half on a 5-0 run, a 3-pointer by Andreas Bloch and steal and breakaway dunk by Sumpter, to pull within 47-33.

Kabba was 5-for-6 from the field, including 4-for-4 from beyond the arc, in the first half, and had 16 points. The Friars shot 16-for-24 (66.7 percent) from the field, including 8-for-13 (61.5 percent) on 3s, in the half.

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