Jan. 10, 2001
Villanova teetered on the edge in both of its first two Big East contests, pulling out victories over Rutgers and Virginia Tech in the final minutes.
Tuesday night Villanova slipped, falling to Providence 76-67.
"You could almost see this coming," said Villanova head coach Steve Lappas. "We haven't played as well as we did early in the season the past couple of games and it caught up to us this time."
In Villanova's previous two defeats this season, the culprit was easily identified: defense. The `Cats allowed 90 points or more at Duke and Georgia and came up on the short end of both scores.
On Tuesday, though, there were other issues.
"This was the first game where I thought our offense let us down," said Lappas. "Our defense wasn't great but there were some stretches where we were effective. But Providence did a great job disrupting us and we didn't respond the way we needed to in the second half."
Villanova used a spurt midway through the first half in which they held the Friars scoreless for nearly seven minutes to build a 38-33 lead with the clock winding down toward halftime. But Providence got a huge lift from a Romuald Augustin 3-point field goal as time ran out in the half and used that as a springboard to a strong second half.
Providence outscored Villanova 40-29 in the second half and the Wildcats connected on 33 percent of their field goal attempts.
"Villanova is an excellent offensive team and we really wanted to try to keep them from getting into an offensive flow," said Providence coach Tim Welsh.
Master of the Middle
One of the few bright spots against Providence came from a familiar source: junior Michael Bradley.
Bradley produced another huge offensive night for the Wildcats on Tuesday. He drained 12-of-18 field goal attempts, including his only 3-point field goal attempt. He now has eight triples to his credit in 20 attempts (.400) and ranks third on the Wildcats in that department. Only Gary Buchanan and Jermaine Medley have more.
"His shooting percentage is one of the incredible things I've seen because that is not a low-down percentage," Lappas said. "He shoots jumpers, he posts up. His shooting percentage is not layups."
For his part, Bradley is enjoying the motion offense employed by Lappas.
"We have a lot of options, so it's hard for teams to match up," Bradley said. "We run a motion offense, so that enables the big guys to go out high-low and shoot the ball from outside. That fits my style perfectly."
Bradley has led Villanova in scoring in all but one game this season. Medley earned top honors with 18 points against Temple. He has scored in double figures in every one of the Wildcats 13 contests this season.
On the down side, Bradley fouled out of a game for the first time of his career. He also went without an assist for the first time in a Villanova uniform.
The product of Burncoat High School leads Villanova in minutes played (34.4 per game), points (22.1), rebounds (8.8 rpg), blocks (1.8 bpg), free throws (49), field goal percentage (.689).
This week he was selected Philadelphia Big Five Player of the Week for the second time this season. He has already earned Big East Player of the Week honors on two occasions.
Freshman Derrick Snowden delivered his most complete effort as a collegian in the loss to Providence.
The rookie from Baltimore, Md., saw 26 minutes of action and helped hold starting Friar guard John Linehan to zero field goals. Villanova's first half spurt was keyed by the quickness of Snowden at the defensive end of the court.
In addition, Snowden dropped in a career-high 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. Included in that point total was a 3-point field goal.
Although the scoring totals don't reflect it, Snowden's role has expanded of late. He has logged 62 minutes in the past four outings (15.5 mpg), compared to 30 minutes in the four contests which preceded that set of games (7.5 mpg).
In its first two games this year, Villanova surrendered 54 turnovers.
Since that time progress had been made. Villanova reduced its turnovers to an average of 14 per game.
Then came Providence.
The hawking pressure defense resulted in 24 turnovers, the most since Villanova committed 29 miscues at Duke on Nov. 17.
"We didn't do the kind of job we needed to in protecting the basketball," said Lappas.
Of course, Providence has been a persistent nemesis in that category. Last year in a Jan. 20 game at the Providence Civic Center, Villanova turned the ball over 29 times - and won.
Frontcourt on the Mark
Bradley isn't the only Wildcat who finds the bottom of the net.
Bradley leads the way at .689, Sales is next at .612, Wright follows at .604 and Matthews comes in a shade below 60 percent at .593.
75 is Significant
The ledger shows that when Villanova has reached 75 points in the last nine years, its odds of success are great.
Under Steve Lappas, the Wildcats are 107-20 (.842) when they score 75 points or more in a game. Last year, Villanova was 8-1 in such contests and is now 8-2 (.800) in that department this season.
When Villanova doesn't reach the 75-point plateau it is 2-1 (.667), including Tuesday night's loss at the hands of Providence.
Villanova is no stranger to the spotlight of national television. The Wildcats are assured of making at least nine appearances on national networks and are 1-1 in those games to date. The breakdown is as follows:
Nov. 17: Duke 98, Villanova 85 (ESPN)
Jan. 6: VU 85, Va. Tech 85 (ESPN)
Jan. 13: at UCLA (CBS)
Jan. 24: at Connecticut (ESPN)
Feb. 12: at Georgetown (ESPN2)
Feb. 17: Miami (ESPN)
Feb. 20: at West Virginia (ESPN2)
Feb. 25: St. John's (ABC)
Feb. 28: Seton Hall (ESPN)
In addition, the Big East Tournament will be carried exclusively by ESPN and ESPN2.