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10 March 2008

'Cats top Friars to stay on bubble

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
3/10/2008 12:36:00 AM

Villanova 73
Providence 63
(box score)

Villanova: 19-11 (9-9 BE)
Providence: 15-15 (6-12 BE)

Next game: vs. Syracuse, 03/12 at Madison Square Garden (Big East Tournament first round).

Villanova salvaged a winning conference record and kept its NCAA-tournament hopes alive Saturday night with a win over the Providence Friars in Rhode Island. With the win, Villanova improved to 19-11 (9-9) to finish eighth in the 16-team superconference. The Wildcats remain squarely on the bubble for an at-large bid for the NCAA championship.

Thanks to Connecticut's brutal demolition of Cincinnati in Sunday night's rescheduled Big East finale, Villanova will face fellow bubble dweller Syracuse in what many bracketologists are calling a play-in game for the at-large invitation. Villanova and Syracuse have very similar NCAA resumes, and it is very likely that the winner of the game will receive one of the last NCAA invitations, while the game's loser will probably find itself relegated to the NIT.

The Providence game, which was absolutely essential for the Wildcats to maintain any at-large hopes at all, was no cakewalk. Before the game, Providence had not yet secured a spot in the Big East Tournament, and was only locked into the last seed Sunday with DePaul's loss to Pittsburgh.

The Friars put up a good fight, keeping it close much of the game, but in the end the Wildcats were too talented. Villanova won by getting to the line often, and the Wildcats enjoyed 16 more free-throw attempts than the host Friars.

Check out Villanova by the Numbers for a lengthy post-game analysis and thoughts on the game.

Congratulations to reader "Big D" for most closely predicting the game's final score.

Next up for the Wildcats is by far the biggest game of the season, a date with Syracuse in the first round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats and Orange will open the BET on Wednesday at noon in the tournament's very first game. As mentioned, the winner of the game will likely hear its name called one week from now on Selection Sunday, and the loser will probably read about its high NIT seed on the Internet shortly thereafter.

On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.

  • Dwayne Anderson (S, 40- min)

    Anderson played nearly the entire game, and it's a good thing he did, because he was definitely the game's most outstanding player.. Dwayne led the team in points, with 17, and in rebounds, with 11. He was 4-10 from the field, but just 1-7 from the three. He was excellent from the foul line, shooting 8-10. Anderson also led the Wildcats in steals (4) and co-led the team with 4 assists. He committed just one turnover.
    Grade: A-

  • Dante Cunningham (S, 36 min)

    Cunningham played for all but 4 minutes on Saturday. He struggled on offense, shooting just 2-8, and from the foul line where he made just 3 of 7 attempts. He did grab 10 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block, but turned the ball over 3 times as well.
    Grade: C

  • Scottie Reynolds (S, 34 min)

    Reynolds also logged major minutes against Providence with 34. If the Wildcats have the good fortune to make a run in the Big East Tournament, can Reynolds run 35 minutes per game, playing every day? Jay Wright might be forced to (gasp!) play one of his two talented freshman point guards more than planned if Reynolds needs a breather. My opinion is that Reynolds can go as much as needed, but time will tell. Against Providence, Reynolds had a quiet game. He scored 10 points on reasonable 3-8 shooting, including 2-6 from the three-point line. He was a perfect 2-2 from the foul line. He committed 3 turnovers but passed for 3 assists, as well.
    Grade: B-

  • Corey Stokes (21 min)

    After going 0-5 from the three against the Bulls, Stokes was slightly better at Providence, shooting 3-9. He shot 5-11 from the field overall to finish with 13 points, second on the team. He added 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, and a steal.
    Grade: B-

  • Reggie Redding (19 min)

    Redding saw the bulk of the relief minutes at the guard spot against the Friars. He was a perfect 1-1 from the field and 2-2 from the line to score 4 points. He had 1 assist but turned the ball over 2 times.
    Grade: C

  • Shane Clark (18 min)

    Clark returned back to earth, as expected, after his dominating offensive performance against USF. Facing the 12th-best team in the conference instead of the 15th-best team, Clark did not do much from the field (1-3) or the three (0-2), but did turn in an excellent performance from the free-throw line, where he went 8-8. He had 4 rebounds and 2 blocks, but did turn the ball over 3 times.
    Grade: C+

  • Corey Fisher (S, 15 min)

    Fisher only saw 15 minutes of action against the Friars. He shot 2-5 from the field to score 6, and finally seemed to have found his three-point stroke, as he was 2-3 from behind the arc. He rounded out his box score with 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Look for a big game from Fisher Wednesday as the 'Cats search for an answer to Jonny Flynn.
    Grade: B-

  • Antonio Pena (S, 15 min)

    Pena played an efficient 15 minutes, shooting 2-3 from the field and 2-2 from the foul line to score 6. He grabbed 3 rebounds, and passed for 2 assists. He committed 1 turnover. Pena's scoring will be needed against Syracuse, so look for him to take a few more shots in the Garden on Wednesday.
    Grade: B-

  • Malcolm Grant (2 min)

    Grant saw just 2 minutes of floort time at Providence. Hopefully Grant will be given more playing time in his hometown this week at Madison Square Garden. Wouldn't a Malcolm Grant explosion in the Garden be welcome as the 'Cats punch their dance card? Well, one can dream, anyway.
    Grade: Incomplete

  • Did not play: Casiem Drummond (foot?), Jason Colenda (CD), Frank Tchuisi (CD).

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