After the loss, which dropped the Friars to 15-15 overall and 6-12 in the Big East, Friar fans, players and coaches were left to wait until Sunday afternoon, when the outcome of the Pittsburgh-DePaul game would determine whether the season ends or rolls on. Fortunately for the Friars, Pittsburgh did its part, defeating the Blue Demons, 98-79, and sending PC on to the Big East Tournament... and a date in the 5/12 game with old nemesis, West Virginia.
As for the Wildcats, Providence simply couldn't contain the quickness of the Nova guards. Time and again, Scottie Reynolds (10 points), Dwayne Anderson (17 points) and Corey Stokes (13 points) burned the Friars, both inside and out. Every time PC hit a big shot, Nova's perimeter players answered.
Villanova led 34-28 at the half, and only outscored PC 39-35 in the second half, but the Cats were able to maintain a five to seven point lead throughout the second half, and pushed the lead to double digits late as the Friars were forced to foul. PC actually cut the lead to five, 62-57, with 1:21 left on a Weyinmi Efejuku three, but Villanova converted their free throws down the stretch to pull away.
The Friars played hard. They played tough defense. Villanova made a number of tough, contested shots. But the Cats played very well on both ends. And sometimes you just get beat by a team that plays better than you.
Efejuku scored 14 points, all in the last nine minutes of the game, while Randall Hanke led the way with 18 points on 8-11 shooting, along with 6 rebounds. Jeff Xavier chipped in with 14 points and opportunistic defense, while Geoff McDermott filled the stat sheet with 8 points, 7 boards and 7 assists against stiff pressure. PC was outrebounded 37-29, shot just 5-21 from three, and committed 19 turnovers.
After the game, Tim Welsh had the following comments about his team's performance:
"After the emotion of the game Thursday sometimes your biggest fear when you have a quick turnaround is that you don't have that hop in your step, that you can roll over to tonight and it seemed that tonight I saw the intensity, it seemed like we were a step, a half a step slow. You try to pull it out of our guys and sometimes its just not there. You saw them, our jumpers were a little short, we were off rhythm, our timing on offense was a little off. Some of that was Villanova's defense, they're very good defensively, but we didn't hit our threes, we had some very, very good open looks."
"I thought our defense for the most part was solid. We had five or six stops in a row at one point in the middle of the second half and we came up empty coming back. Usually when we get stops we get runouts, we'll get drive and kicks. We got a couple of drive and kicks, we missed them. We threw it inside, we turned it over, Weyinmi drove the middle, he kicked to Jeff and threw it out of bounds. The turnovers hurt us, twelve in the first half, we tried to limit that in the second half and get our rhythm back in order. They seemed to be a half step quicker than us in everything tonight, to the glass, to the loose balls and the kids were pushing through the chest tonight to get it done but sometimes its not there. It didn't happen tonight, a combination of us not having our ultimate quickness and playing a very good team."
"The kids are disappointed. What do you say to them? You say, you gotta go home and wake up and see what happens tomorrow and get some help and hopefully you keep playing and that's all you can do and all you can say. That's the way this league is right now."
"Connecticut is certainly very quick but they have a different philosophy on defense. Connecticut's philosophy is more to funnel to the shot blockers, more a traditional lineup. They do a lot of switching, lot of ball pressure, really attack the ball, they give a lot of help. You're going to get your threes against them if you're strong with the ball because when you drive the ball, three or four guys are going to come attack you. We looked at that and thought we'd have a carryover from the last few games where we moved the ball well and shot it pretty well. But tonight it just didn't happen. Their rotations were pretty quick tonight, rotations were quicker than some of our ball movement. Our player movement at times was a little sluggish as well, our cuts weren't as sharp and crisp as we needed to be against a good, quick team like that. That's their defensive philosophy, that's the way they've played for awhile and they recruit all those guards and they get up and attack you with their pressure."
"We just wore out after awhile. You put so much pressure on your defense when you come away with so many empty chances down at the other end."
"I don't pull for teams because everybody works very hard. All coaches do, all the players do, but obviously we have to do that and I don't know, maybe I'll go out to lunch or something. I can't watch that. I watched St. John's today and I almost got sick, I couldn't watch that today. I have enough issues in my own life with my team, I don't need to be watching other guys coach. I found myself trying to coach today, watching that game. I said to myself, Geez, that's great. I watched the last fifteen minutes. Tomorrow, I may go to three masses, and have a nice brunch with my mother and father and take them to the airport and someone can tell me what happens at 2:00. You can't control anything."
"Hopefully we'll get a break. I told the kids, You have to make your own breaks, but I think these kids deserve one. They've battled through a lot of stuff this year. They've hung together, they've been beaten up. You guys think I get beat up, well, they get beat up too. They're kids, and they're on campus and they're in the dorms and all that stuff and they're kids. I can take it but I have to protect them. They've held strong and that's why I'm proud of them. They've shown a lot of maturity through a tough season and battled back in this last week to put themselves in a position where they can still go to New York, so for that reason I'm proud and I told them, You deserve a break. You deserve something, for someone to help us out. We could have helped ourselves tonight but we didn't, so now hopefully we can get a break. It's out of our hands."
"They shot the ball well at times, they made some big shots. The rebounding numbers, you look at them and you say we didn't rebound well and I'll look at the tape, but I saw some real battling and sometimes one team is quicker to the ball on certain nights. I saw four or five guys, bodies to bodies in there and they came out of it. You've got to be tough but our guys have shown they're tough."
NOTES: At halftime, PC honored its three legends by unveiling new jersey banners for Jimmy Walker, Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes. The three families gathered in the middle of the court, while close to a hundred former Friars lined both sides of the court… Eric Murdock did color for the broadcast, and along with cousin Jason, was present for the banner ceremony… Providence played an Alumni game at 4:00 at the Dunk. The White team, featuring Joe Hassett, Keith Lomax, Dave Frye, Paul Oristaglio, Jacek Duda and Jim Benedict, was coached by Ernie D, the Black team, featuring Donnie Brown, John Nolan, Frank Tirico, Sean Canty, Llewellyn Cole, Quinton Burton and Sean Van de Walle, by Marvin Barnes. The game featured a 20-minute first half and a 10-minute second half with a running clock except for the final minute. The Black Team jumped out to an early lead as Hassett had trouble finding range, while Brown and Burton came out hot from three. Down by ten, Hassett buried three threes in the final two minutes to pull within one at 52-51. Ernie D playfully pointed at Marvin and mouthed "Hassett's going to beat you." That seemed prophetic as Marvin was teed up for sending seven players in, and Hassett nailed both free throws. The White team went up by three on a trey by Lomax, but Donnie Brown was fouled attempting a three pointer with six seconds left and he calmly swished all three freebies to tie the score, 56-56. When the clock expired, an exhausted Ernie D was heard to say, "We'll take the tie." All was not lighthearted, though. Sean Canty drove to the basket, bounced off Jacek Duda and went down with torn ligaments in his knee which will require surgery.
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