3/06/2009 01:51:00 AM
Providence: 18-12 (8-10 BE)
#11 Villanova: 25-6 (13-5 BE)
Villanova flexed its offensive muscles on Thursday night as the Wildcats exploded for 97 points to defeat Providence in the year's final game at the Pavilion.
With the win, Villanova secured an all-important top-four finish in the Big East, and the two days of byes that go along with it. The Wildcats will now be seeded all the way into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament on Thursday.
Villanova also maintains its position as a potential top-3 seed in the NCAA tournament, which is crucial if the Wildcats would like to play the first two rounds in their home-away-from-home at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
It was an excellent offensive game for the Wildcats, who scored 57 points in the second half and shot well overall. Scottie Reynolds, Dwayne Anderson, and Corey Fisher all played outstanding games for Villanova, and the 'Cats looked unstoppable when all their weapons were blazing.
Providence finishes the regular season with an 18-12 record, which normally might not earn a team an at-large invitation to the NCAA tournament. The Friars, however, are 10-8 in the country's best conference, and boast a premium win over then-#1 Pittsburgh.
Conventional bracketology wisdom suggests that Providence would have been a lock with a win over Villanova, but will now need to win one at Madison Square Garden to have a good chance on Selection Sunday.
Congratulations to reader "bosshoghazzard" for most closely predicting the final score.
Villanova now has a full week off to prepare for its post-season. After a grueling Big East season, I am sure the rest will be welcome.
According to the official bracket (PDF), Villanova will next take the court on Thursday at 2 p.m. In practice, however, the game always starts later than that, closer to 2:30.
Villanova will face the winner of the #5 vs. #12/#13 game, which will most likely be Marquette.
On to the player grades. "READ MORE" below for player performance grades and analysis.
- Scottie Reynolds (S, 36 min)
Reynolds continued his scorching shooting ways tonight, shooting an excellent 9-13 from the field. He also put in an outstanding performance from the three, hitting 5-9, or the equivalent of shooting 83% from the two. He did miss both his free throw attempts, which is a bit troubling, since his free throw shooting seems to be dropping off a bit lately. Reynolds added 4 steals, 4 assists, and just 2 turnovers. Let's hope Scottie can continue his hot streak through the entire month of March.
- Dante Cunningham (S, 36 min)
Positives tonight were 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. The negatives, however, were substantial. Cunningham shot a dismal 8-17 to get those 19 points, including several missed jumpers that he probably should have passed on altogether. He missed 4 of his 7 free throw attempts, as well. Cunningham also led the team in turnovers, with 5, committing a whopping 71.4 percent of the team's turnovers despite playing 18 percent of the team's minutes. If you haven't surmised this already, I really hate turnovers, especially by forwards. Perhaps worst of all, however, was Cunningham's defense, which was uncharacteristically soft tonight. Cunningham allowed at least three uncontested lay-ups or dunks. All in all, the positives save this grade from the dreaded "F," but it was nonetheless one of the worst games for Cunningham of the season.
- Reggie Redding (S, 31 min)
Redding was Mr. Pass tonight, dishing out 11 of the Wildcats' 26 assists. Those assists definitely earned him 31 minutes, but Redding's normal reason for playing so much, defense, was lacking tonight. Redding was responsible much of the night for covering Weyinmi Efejuku, who lit up the Wildcats for 29 points. Redding was not fast enough to stay near Efejuku at all, which could bode ill for the Wildcats against teams with similar star players. Aside from his excellent passing night, Redding had little other statistical impact. He shot 1-3 to score 2 points, and added 0 turnovers, steals, or blocks. He grabbed 2 rebounds. Those 11 assists go a long way to make up for a terrible night defensively, but it still was not much better than average for Reggie.
- Corey Fisher (27 min)
Twenty-seven minutes are more like it for Fisher, unquestionably the team's most potent sparkplug. I'd prefer his minutes get up to the mid-thirties, but I guess it's one step at a time for Wright. Fisher shot 3-9 from the field, including 1-3 from the three, to go with his excellent 6-6 performance from the foul line. He handled the ball perfectly, dishing out 6 assists while committing 0 turnovers. His defense was outstanding, and he grabbed 4 steals. He was quick enough to stay with anyone on the perimeter, as well. It was a nearly perfect game for Fisher aside from the slightly reduced scoring output of 13. Fisher showed tonight he could have an excellent impact on the game even while not making many baskets, and this should finally (hopefully?) earn Fisher some more minutes in the post-season.
- Corey Stokes (21 min)
Stokes was a major force in this game. He continued his hot shooting from the three, hitting 3-5. He also used his good height and strength to grab 4 rebounds and 1 block. He played decent defense, and added 1 steal. I think 21 minutes tonight was a big under-utilization of Stokes. Imagine how hard it will be for Villanova's opponents to contain the Wildcats with all four of Stokes, Fisher, Reynolds, and Cunningham firing on all cylinders. In order for this to happen, Stokes has got to get the minutes to heat up and stay effective.
- Shane Clark (S, 20 min)
Clark was not at all effective on offense (1-5 shooting, no foul attempts, no assists), but was a little better on the defensive end. Clark had 2 steals and 5 rebounds in his 20 minutes. I'd like to see 10 of his minutes go immediately to Stokes, but you have to admire Clark's hustle.
- Dwayne Anderson (S, 17 min)
Anderson, troubled by early fouls, still managed to score 19 points in 17 minutes, which is excellent. And he shot very well, 7-11, 3-5, and 2-2. Anderson, who had missed his 12 prior three-pointers before the game, is the ultimate streak shooter, and it's great to see him take those shots when he is hot. He also added 7 rebounds in just 17 minutes: compare that to Cunningham's 8 in 36. Anderson also added 3 assists, 1 block, and 4 steals in a phenomenal effort, playing half the game. If we extrapolate what his line would have looked like with 35 minutes, we get 39 points, 14 rebounds, 8 steals, 2 blocks, and 6 assists! Of course, it would have been difficult for him to maintain that pace, but what a game for Anderson despite the fouls.
- Antonio Pena (9 min)
Just 9 minutes, but a bit of a resurgence for Antonio Pena. He shot a good 2-4, showing intelligent awareness and spacing on the offensive end. He also was a perfect 2-2 from the foul line. He added 1 rebound, 2 blocks, and 1 steal in his very limited time.
- Incomplete grades: Frank Tchuisi (1 min), Jason Colenda (1 min), Russell Wooten (1 min).
- Did not play: Maurice Sutton (RS).