Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
A combination of hot shooting and a little bit of luck at the end helped Providence to knock off the Wildcats yet again. What does it mean for the rest of Villanova's season?
Providence was ice cold at the first TV timeout of the game, shooting just 14.3% from the field, but the Friars wouldn't perform so dismally all game. Eventually, they found their stroke from deep and finished the first half shooting 75% from beyond the arc, and 66.7% for the game, torching the Wildcats from distance and building up a lead that reached 9 points after the clock ticked down past the 3-minute mark.
It was a valliant effort by the Wildcats who played with fire in their belly from that point, scoring nine straight points unanswered by the Friars to bring the score back to even with under a minute to go. It was all for nothing, however, as Providence was able to launch a three-pointer with 2.2 seconds on the clock to make things difficult for Villanova.
James Bell inbounded the ball deep down the court to Mouph Yarou, who almost lost it under defensive pressure, turned and launched a three-point-prayer from the top of the key that bounced hard of the back of the rim and out. Providence would win the game 55-52 over Nova — sweeping the season series.
"That was a tough game in that I thought there was periods where we were playing really well and doing things we wanted to do," Jay Wright explained after the game, "and really it's the second game now where we went through a stretch in the second half - it was the same as the Notre Dame game.
"I thought we were doing good things and we went through a stretch in the second half where we just didn't execute offensively, and then we gave up some threes at the other end. That's the difference in the game, it's almost the same as Notre Dame in that sense."
It was a few seconds at the end of the game that made the difference between win and lose for Villanova, but Wright thought the 'Cats never should have dug themselves into that situation.
"They don't hit the shot at the end and we get the ball back and win and we're all sitting here happy, but they still had that period in the second half where we kind of gave the game away, and it's something we've just go to get better at.
"We're not talented enough to make up for it and we're not disciplined enough, yet, to not have those periods and stretches."
The Wildcats' defense wasn't able to lock down the perimeter yet again, and Providence launched 15 shots from deep, sinking 10 of those for more than half of their points. Freshman guard Josh Fortune scored half of those buckets, torching the Wildcats by going 5-5 from the perimeter. Forward Bryce Cotton made 4-of-8 as well, and led the Friars with 18 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds.
"A lot of that comes down to intelligence and experience," the head coach explained about the 3-point defensive struggles. "If you look at it, you know Cotton is probably one of the best 3-point shooters and I thought we, he only got up eight, made four, but he was the one we were really concerned with.
"If you're on one of these guys, you've got to make decisions when to help, when not to help, and we made really poor decisions on Fortune. So you've got to watch tape, you gotta go back, you gotta go into help defense, practice it, like 'here's a three-point shooter, we're gonna drive at him, decide whether you've got to help or stay with him because he's a 3-point shooter. You'll see, there's times where we, on the weak side, we really didn't have to help and we left Fortune and they find him.
"Its a lot of it is decision-making, it's not you know, you could say, 'well just stay with all those guys,' well if you just stay with those guys, no one is going to keep Council or Cotton in front of them, they're just going to go to the rim and get layups and fouls. So, it's a team, it's just something you have to do as a team, you have to find a rhythm to know when the other guy has him guarded."
Cotton also turned the ball over 21 times, which was slightly more than the 18 times the 'Cats coughed the ball up.
Villanova trailed at half-time, 29-23, their first half-time deficit since losing to Columbia earlier in the season. The inconsistent Wildcats have now lost two straight to unranked teams after beating top-five opponents in the prior two games.
"Its more a function of the style of play of the team we're playing," Wright explained. "Notre Dame had a lot of 3-point shooters, so they stretched us out and as soon as [Jerami] Grant made us play two guys they found their opening. Both guys were freshmen and went for five threes."
"When you let a guy at this level get going like that, it's hard to stop them."
For all the shots that Providence was able to stick from downtown, the Wildcats weren't able to answer with many of their own. Nova's "shoot 'em up" ethos will have them sleeping in the streets tonight after going just 2-for-15 from beyond the arc for a pathetic 13.3%. They went 0-7 in the second-half from deep.
Darrun Hilliard led the Wildcats with 17 points, but turned the ball over a team-high 5 times. Mouph Yarou was second on the team with 10 points and led the way on the boards with 14 total. The freshman forward, Daniel Ochefu, grabbed 12 boards, 6 on the offensive glass.
JayVaughn Pinkston had just 9 points, and sat out a long stretch at the start of the second half. According to Wright, he was struggling on defense against Providence's guards. He grabbed four rebounds and dished out two assists while turning the ball over five times.
"I don't want these guys to get frustrated, I feel completely confident. We're going to practice tomorrow morning because we've got to leave for Chicago and we can get better," Wright said. "I'm not frustrated, I know it looks bad, but I'm not frustrated.
"We're going to practice tomorrow morning at 8:30, and we're going to look at this film and we're going to see the opportunities we had on drives where . . . this is what experienced players know, you drive the ball and before that last step you know, 'I'm going to get to the rim and finish,' or, 'they're going to help and so I'm not going to, I'm going to stop and pass to my teammate.'
"We still, that was during that time [in the second half], we drive it and throw it up and hope that we make the shot. You know, you have to be able to make that decision before. So we're going to shot it to them, then we're going to practice, and then we have to get ready for DePaul's press."