Thursday, February 5, 2009

PC's Comeback Falls Short in 94-91 Loss To Villanova

The PC Friars dug themselves into a hole in the first half of this game and were not able to complete a second half comeback against Villanova, via ProJo Sports:

After riding an explosive offense and outscoring opponents in the first half of the Big East schedule, the Providence College Friars have discovered that they cannot stop anyone at the other end of the floor. Those defensive woes ultimately doomed a spirited second-half comeback last night as Villanova outlasted the Friars, 94-91, in front of 11,212 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Villanova, ranked 17th in the polls this week, becomes the fourth straight opponent to score 93 or more points against Providence. The Wildcats improve to 18-4 overall and 6-3 in the Big East. PC lost for the second straight game and now sits at 14-8 overall and 6-4 in the Big East, with road games at West Virginia and South Florida up next.

The Friars’ defensive shortcomings dug themselves a 15-point hole in a first half that saw Villanova drain eight 3-pointers. Things only got uglier, as the lead grew to 20 early in the second half. “They spread us out and got us extended, and they knocked down a lot of shots,” said PC’s Weyinmi Efejuku. “We weren’t knocking down our shots, so the lead grew.” A switch to more of a pressing look and loads of desperation helped the PC defense regroup and lead a stirring comeback. Behind Efejuku, who scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half, and Sharaud Curry (25 points), the Friars stormed back and put up 57 second-half points.

The lead shrunk to 92-91 when Efejuku hit a corner 3-pointer with two seconds left, but Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds made two free throws to push the lead back to three and PC could not get off a final prayer at the buzzer. “It certainly wasn’t
pretty,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright. “I have to give Providence credit. They came back and battled and battled. I give our guys credit for hanging in. Hey, it’s a road game in the Big East. You take it and go home.” Reynolds led the Wildcats with a game-high 31 points, including 13-of-15 free throws. Dwayne Anderson led four other ’Nova players in double figures with 19 points.

PC’s wild comeback lit a fire under the fans who didn’t leave the building before the final minutes. The Friars hit 11 threes in the second half and tied a school record with 17 altogether. The 40 treys they attempted set a record.

As for the defense, coach Keno Davis said that while he’s not content with the final score, he thought his team actually worked very hard in the second half to fight back into the game. Villanova finished the night shooting 44 percent from the field and 32 percent from the 3-point line. “I don’t want to give up 90-plus, but I think the numbers in this game are deceiving,” said Davis. “Our numbers were respectable, defensively, but there just were so many possessions in the second half. I thought our second half output was pretty good, defensively.”

The Friars were clearly shook by Villanova’s speed and quickness out of the gate as the visitors shot out to a 12-2 lead. PC slowly crawled back into the game and tied the score at 20-20, but that rally quickly folded as errant passes and turnovers led to easy Villanova scoring chances as the Wildcats drained 8-of-15 threes, drove to the rim and grabbed all sorts of offensive rebounds. It all added up to a 49-34 halftime lead.

PC responded by making just one of its first eight shots in the second half and the defense continued to leak like a sieve as the Wildcats raced to a 62-42 lead. But the Friars had some fight left. A 69-52 Villanova lead slowly shrank as Efejuku took over, with a large helping hand from Curry and Jeff Xavier (21 points). Xavier hit two threes to get a run going, but Efejuku’s driving score and two 3-pointers changed the pulse of the game and cut the deficit to 75-68.

When Xavier tracked down a loose ball and rained a corner three-ball, ’Nova led by just 77-71. From there, it was a toughness game with bodies flying everywhere and the officiating crew making several questionable calls that all seemed to go against PC. Villanova settled down a bit to push the lead to 80-71, and PC trailed, 88-81, with 25 seconds left. But a deep three by Curry sliced the lead to four and another bomb cut it to 90-87. Villanova kept answering with free throws but when Efejuku followed up a missed free throw with a deep 3-pointer, the lead was just 92-91 with two seconds left. Reynolds ended the night, however, with his 12th and 13th free throws.

This is probably going to end up being a big loss for PC, unless they can go on the road and avenge the loss when they play at Villanova. This is one of the games I pegged as a must win for the Friars in order for them to get more than 10 Big East wins. However, with Notre Dame struggling, 2 games against Rutgers, and 1 against USF, the Friars definitely have a good shot at 10 Big East wins. I think it would be hard for the NCAA committee to leave out a Big East team with 10 conference wins, but if the Friars don't get anymore quality wins and then lose in the first round of the Big East tournament, then don't be surprised if PC pushes the limits of the committee and gets left out of the tournament.

More: Providence College

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