Down 14 at half time, with the Big East regular season title wrapped up and no Al Durham, the Friars could’ve easily packed it in. Instead they had a furious second half comeback that came up just short against Villanova. Despite the loss, the Friars once again showed they’re a gritty team that shows great resolve. Even though the Wildcats swept the Friars on the season, both games were close and if the ball bounces a different way perhaps the Friars win both of them. The Friars can hold their heads high as they prepare for the Big East Tournament next Thursday. Let’s take a look how it all went down.
1. Jacking Up Triples- The Friars took an astonishing 32 three point attempts in this one. Part of it had to do with Villanova doing a great job packing the paint and the other part had to do with them shooting 42% on the night from deep. The Friars started off hot from downtown, with Horchler, Reeves and Minaya all hitting the first 3-pointer they took. Then the Friars missed their next 3 before Horchler connected for his second. What really hurt the Friars was the final 4:15 stretch of the first half. PC would miss their final 6 threes of the half and a 2-point deficit ballooned to 14 at the break. The Friars then would connect on 10 threes in the second half, which fueled their furious comeback. Friar fans may not be used to this but with Horchler, Reeves, Bynum and even Minaya, PC has plenty of capable shooters.
2. Too Many Turnovers- We always talk about how on the road you want to limit the turnovers. In this one, the Friars didn’t come close. PC turned the ball over 15 times compared to the 5 from Villanova. You never want to give Villanova extra possessions and it hurts when the Wildcats weren’t shooting particularly amazing from the floor (40% FG, 33% 3pt). It’s really amazing Providence found themselves with a chance to send the game to overtime. If PC limits the turnovers against Villanova, they may be the ones who left victorious tonight.
3. Free Throw Discrepancy- Villanova is on pace to pass Harvard for the best free throw shooting in NCAA history with a clip of 82.7% from the charity stripe. It makes it very difficult to win when they shoot past the season average from the line on 25 attempts. Villanova edged the Friars in free throw attempts 25-12, and for the Friars that’s counting the 4 attempts Bynum took when Nova intentionally fouled him with them being up three. Listen it sounds like sour grapes when you cry foul about the whistle, but against the Cats it’s hard not to. There were three questionable block/charge calls in this one all resulting in charges favoring Villanova. Add that with the missed travel on Caleb Daniels late and the countless push offs Gillespie gets away with. We call it like we see it, and there some bad calls that went PC’s way- most notably the swipe Bynum had on Gillespie that wasn’t called. It may just be the officials in the conference just stink as a whole and it isn’t a Villanova thing, but I wouldn’t be the first to question whistles against the Cats.
4. Inability to get post touches – We wrote in the preview article how important it was to get Watson and Croswell paint touches due to the lack of size of Villanova. Well, that didn’t work out as planned. The Wildcats did a great job fronting Watson and denying him the ball; however, Providence needs to get more creative and get him touches. Watson was in foul trouble all game and only managed 6 points on 2-5 shooting. This would be one of the areas of improvement I focus on the most if I’m Ed Cooley. There are too many games where Watson can disappear for large stretches of the game.
5. Plenty of Things to Clean Up, but Friars were Right There- It seems like the majority of Friar fans are leaving this one feeling good about the group heading into March, and I’ll be one of them. They had countless things go against them and plenty of self inflicted wounds (turnovers, foul trouble) yet PC was right in the fight with a chance to win it. Again it’s just a testament to this team’s resolve, grittiness and overall skill. PC will have a 12-day layoff before their opener in the BET. They’ll use it to get healthy, clean things up, and ensure Durham is ready to go for the stretch run.
The Friars will kick off their quest for a Big East Tournament title Thursday at noon against the winner of the 8/9 game. As of right now (subject to change) that is looking like the winner of Butler – St. Johns.