The rich traditions of college basketball in the Northeast are personified through PC and Villanova, two of the Big East’s long-time programs. Strolling through Alumni Hall at PC and the Pavilion at Nova, you experience the strong sense of pride, passion and attitude that exemplify the conference. Since the realignment in 2013, the competitiveness between these two programs has elevated to another level. Burdened with upholding what has been, for decades, a “classic rivalry”, this old school matchup never disappoints. Since 2013, Villanova holds a 10-3 advantage over the Friars which may seem lopsided, but over the past four seasons, four of these games have been decided by three or less points. Saturday’s contest offered much of the same excitement as Villanova clung to a 78-68 win against the gritty Friars.
Villanova Plays with Hart
For the fifth time in their last nine games, the Friars have allowed their opponent to shoot 52% or better from the floor. It’s tough to pull off wins in a talented conference, when teams are able to find the basket all game long. Most of PC’s defensive struggles have come later in games, with today serving as yet another example as Villanova managed to shoot 63% from the field in the second half. To no one’s surprise, Villanova brought a balanced offensive attack, led by Josh Hart (26 point, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals), the Wildcats’ senior standout. Most of Hart’s damage was accomplished in the paint, as Rodney Bullock and Emmitt Holt couldn’t find a way to solve his creativity and explosiveness. Villanova outscored PC in the paint 38-14, largely due in part to the Wildcats’ success on the offensive glass as they converted all nine offensive rebounds into second-chance opportunities and scores.
Coach Jay Wright reeled in yet another standout point guard in Jalen Brunson who spent much of last season under the guidance of Ryan Arcidiacono, who was the face of the Villanova program, as they won the National Championship just a year ago. Brunson (13 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists) complemented Hart’s dominance by facilitating a crisp offense with minimal costly mistakes. The Wildcats turned the ball over just ten times.
Just a few days removed from a near triple-double performance against Georgetown, Kyron Cartwright (12 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists), gave Villanova all they could handle in the first half. Brunson couldn’t contain the speedy guard as Kyron penetrated the lane with ease. The junior guard has an uncanny knack for diversifying his offensive attack from one possession to another. The Friars take on different identities, as dictated by Cartwright’s aggressiveness and leadership. With Cartwright on the floor for virtually the entire first half, PC headed into the break down by a slight 35-31 disadvantage. Apparently Kyron has been feeling under the weather this week, culminating into what was a tough halftime in the locker room for him. Allegedly sick, Cartwright played just nine minutes in the second half.
With Cartwright on the bench for the majority of the second half and with Maliek White not yet ready to run an offense against the nation’s best team, Coach Cooley put together a makeshift rotation of all forwards. Although not a primary ball handler, Alpha Diallo ran the point as Ryan Fazekas and Isaiah Jackson took turns at the shooting guard position, while Jalen Lindsey remained in his typical role as the team’s small forward. Emmitt Holt and Rodney Bullock served as PC’s front court. Down by 13 points with 6:40 remaining the second half, Lindsey caught fire as he buried three consecutive three-pointers that got PC within ten points of the Wildcats who had an answer for every shot the Friars made. An Alpha Diallo free throw cut the lead to eight points with 2:11 remaining. Without a true point guard on the court, the Friars struggled to find success on consecutive possessions while Villanova continued to pile on points. Alas, PC came up short in what turned out to be a valiant upset bid.
PC against the Nation’s best
The Friars are now 2-14 against the nation’s #1 ranked team. PC last faced a #1 ranked opponent back on November 30th, 2014 as they lost to the Kentucky Wildcats, 38-58 in ‘Blue Nation’ – Rupp arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
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The Providence College Friars (13-8, 3-5 conference) welcome the St. John’s Red Storm (9-11, 3-4 conference) to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Wednesday, January 25th at 6:30 p.m.