Kevin McSports

March Blues: PC loses again at AMP as ‘Nova rains in 3’s

March Blues: PC loses again at AMP as ‘Nova rains in 3’s

Devin Carter is corralled by Villanova defense in Big East loss (Photo: Louriann Mardo-Zayat)



That, in essence, was the sound emanating from the Amica Mutual Pavilion Saturday as the Providence Friars’ post-season chances took a serious hit after a third home loss of the season. This time it was Villanova getting the job done in Friartown as a seasoned, poised Wildcat team dominated the second half in a 71-60 victory.

The win was a huge one for Villanova (17-12, 10-8), which has won six of eight games and played itself into the NCAA Tournament mix. The loss was a damaging one for the Friars who have now lost two in a row and placed themselves in a serious hole with an 18-11 record and 9-9 mark in the Big East with games left against Georgetown and Connecticut.

“Coach (Dennis) Felton just spent some time explaining to our guys that the beauty of this league is we still control our own destiny,” said PC coach Kim English. “Two great opportunities in front of us starting at Georgetown Tuesday night and then Connecticut at home Saturday.”

English correctly pointed out that while beating Georgetown is a must, the UConn game looms as a monster, Quad 1 possibility that would open the NCAA selection committee’s eyes. “I think at George Mason we had four or five (Quad 1 & 2 games) in two years. I think this was our 19th. That’s the beauty of this league.”

The Friars led this one early, going up 35-28 late in the first half. But Villanova scored the next six points and trailed by just 37-34 at the break. The start of the second half would turn the game markedly in the Wildcats’ favor. Kyle Neptune’s team came in shooting 33 percent from the 3-point line but something was clearly in the Vitamin water on this day as the threes were raining from all corners in a 18-2 run to open the half.

Twelve of the 18 points came via the 3-point line and from three different players. That added up to a commanding 52-39 lead. When Justin Moore (team-high 15 points and four 3’s) banged one in a few minutes later, Villanova was up 59-44 with just under 10 minutes left.

“We weathered a bunch of punches from them,” said VU coach Kyle Neptune. “Our guys were really resilient. Our goal has really been to be our best by the end of the season and I think we are trending that way.”

Major breakdowns on both sides of the ball doomed the Friars in a second half where they were out-scored, 37-23. Villanova shot a sizzling 56 percent in the half, 70 percent (7-10) from the 3-point line. Those numbers are non-starters, of course, and point to major issues.

English said he chose to double-team certain Villanova players in the post, namely Moore and and Eric Dixon. But the veteran-laden Wildcats found answers kicking the ball away from those double-teams and finding open shooters who stepped up and delivered. The Wildcats also made 13 threes in their last game, a 75-47 beatdown of Georgetown.

On the offensive end the Friars were severely restricted by point guard Jayden Pierre battling the flu for the second straight game. Pierre looked tired as he turned down offensive chance and the shots he did take came up short. He played 19 minutes but managed just three points with three assists. “The margins are thin anyway but when you don’t have him, they are even thinner,” English said.

The Friar offense wasn’t much better in the final 20 minutes. PC shot a measly 27 percent (7-26) in the half and just 3-of-13 from downtown. Devin Carter (13 points, 9 rebounds) was bottled up all day, but especially in a 1-of-6, three-point second half. Josh Oduro went for 16 points and 9 rebounds and Ticket Gaines finished with 11 points.

Where do the Friars go from here? Well to Georgetown and face old friend Ed Cooley. The Hoyas have no wins against any Big East team not named DePaul and this cannot be the exception. Then there would be the ultimate Opportunity Game with top five UConn coming to the AMP next Saturday. Win both of those games and the Friars would not only be off the bubble but firmly in every bracket prediction, if not the real Field of 68 when it is revealed on St. Patrick’s Day.



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