Jan. 22, 2008
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Sophomore guard Tia Grant (Lido Beach, N.Y.) set new career highs with 18 points and eight assists and Villanova (12-7, 2-4 Big East) used a big second half to power past Providence (11-7, 1-4 Big East), 70-50, on Tuesday night at Alumni Hall. The Wildcats used a pair of big runs after halftime to defeat the Friars.
The final score does not indicate that there were eight ties and 11 lead changes in the game. All came in the first half, when the teams were never separated by more than four points. The story changed quickly after the break though, as junior Laura Kurz (Lower Gwynedd, Pa.) scored nine of her 15 points in the first 5:27 of the second stanza.
The sharp-shooting of Kurz sparked a 13-4 run coming out of intermission that built a 46-33 advantage with 14:33 remaining in the game. A Providence bucket a minute later trimmed the lead back to 11 but the Friars then went nearly 11 minutes without another field goal. Villanova took advantage of that drought, going on a 16-4 run and forging a commanding 62-39 edge with 7:56 to play.
On a career night for Grant, the second-year point guard hit on 7-of-9 from the field while making both her three-point attempts and both her foul shots in the contest. She added eight assists - five in the second half - in 34 minutes and led the team in scoring for the second time in her career.
Grant had already tied her previous scoring high of 13 points by halftime. Her offensive production in the opening 20 minutes helped the Wildcats to a 33-29 lead at the break. She scored 13 of the team's first 23 points despite entering the game off the bench at the 17:23 mark of the period.
Providence kept pace with their visitors early on, hitting 11-of-26 (42 percent) from the field in the first half and swapping ties and leads with Villanova. The same didn't hold true in the second period, however, as the Friars were just 6-of-23 (26 percent) in the half.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats presented a different look than normal by going inside for their points. Villanova made a season-high 23 field two-point field goals while attempting just 15 three-pointers. The result was a 46-16 scoring edge in the paint and a 34-28 rebounding advantage.
Kurz shot 7-of-11 from the field and added five rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes, while senior Stacie Witman (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) added 15 points, five rebound and two helpers. After missing her first four field goal attempts and going scoreless for the first 13:44 of the game, Witman went 6-of-8 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free throw line the rest of the way. Sophomore Maria Getty (Centerville, Ohio) chipped in seven points and a team-high seven rebounds.
The leading scorer for each side came off the bench. Kendria Holmes shot 5-of-12 from the field and led Providence with 13 points, while Shantee Darrian added 10 points and eight rebounds. The Friars struggled to get into an offensive rhythm and recorded assists on just three of their 17 field goals.
Villanova returns to action on Saturday afternoon when it visits Rutgers for a 4 p.m. contest. The Scarlet Knights are ranked fifth in the latest national polls and ride an 11-game winning streak into Saturday's matchup.
NOTES: The Wildcats ended a streak of nine straight losses in BIG EAST road games with tonight's victory ... The team's last road conference win was a 69-56 triumph over West Virginia on February 28, 2007 ... Villanova was 0-8 away from home in league play last season and lost at Notre Dame last week ... Tonight's victory also marked the eighth straight in the series against Providence and the fourth in a row at Alumni Hall ... The Wildcats lead the all-time series by a 29-21 count ... Villanova, the nation's top three-point shooting team, had not made more than 15 two-point baskets in any game this season and not more than 14 in a victory on the year ... The 23 field goals inside the arc in tonight's game were more than the team's total made baskets in 11 of the first 18 games ... Grant had not scored in double figures in a span of 26 games since tallying 11 points against Louisville last season on January 30 ... Her previous career high of 13 points came at West Virginia last season on January 20 ... Prior to her 18-point performance this evening, she had scored a total of 19 points in the previous seven games ... She took over the team in assists for the season tonight and now has 55 in 19 games (2.9/game) ... The frontcourt trio of Kurz, Witman and junior Lisa Karcic (New Hyde Park, N.Y.) had led the Wildcats in scoring in 16 of the team's first 18 games ... The 31 points provided by the backcourt of Grant, Getty and junior Siobhan O'Connor (West Chester, Pa.) tonight were four more than the most the trio had combined for in a game this season (27 in win over Manhattan on December 30) ... Senior Claire Hannenberg (Wellesley, Mass.) played close to her hometown and made her first collegiate start in the game.