Coming off a signature win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Laura Kurz and the Villanova Wildcats (12-8, 4-2 Big East) avoided a letdown by dominating the Providence Friars (8-12, 2-5) 64-48 in their second most lopsided victory of the season.
Providence took an early lead at 17-15, but Villanova’s defense clamped down quickly. The Wildcats’ aggressive man-to-man defense shut out the Friars for the last seven minutes of the first half en route to a 26-17 halftime lead.
Kurz led all scorers with 21 points, including eight during a 26-3 run in the middle of the game that essentially put the game away. It was her 16th straight game in double digits, and her sixth 20-point performance this season. She also added a team-high six rebounds.
Both teams struggled to make shots early, but once Villanova’s shooters started to get hot, the game got out of hand quickly. The Wildcats forced the Friars into a slow pace, and Providence couldn't adjust or find any open looks.
“We slowed the game down and played our game,” said center Heather Scanlon, who added six points for the Wildcats and made both of her shots from long range. “We have to try to stay focused. When we stay focused, shots drop.”
Villanova finished 10-22 from three-point range.
Providence's frustration culminated with coach Philip Seymour collecting a technical foul with his team down by 24 in the second half. His team’s 48 points tied their season-low, even though they ended the game on a 19-6 run.
Chelsea Marandola led the Friars with 12 points, her 13th game in double figures this season. Her team shot just 13-for-46 for the game, as they simply could not get enough open looks against a swarming Villanova man-to-man defense.
This victory completed a Villanova season sweep of Providence. In the first matchup on Jan. 7, it was the Friars coming off a big upset win against Pittsburgh before falling to the Wildcats 57-54 at home. Villanova was able to avoid such a letdown at home, climbing above .500 in conference for the first time all season.
Still, coach Harry Perretta wasn’t entirely pleased.
“We were very lackadaisical with the ball for a while,” Perretta said. “We have to learn how to put a game away when we get up by eight, 10 points.”
Tonight, his team answered the call—and more. He challenged his players to put together back-to-back good performances and not play down to Providence’s level as they had earlier in the season, losing to Delaware at home.
“It was on them,” Perretta remarked. His team rose to the challenge on this night by being patient with the offense (15 assists), playing strong defense, and making more than enough shots (20-for-47) to overwhelm the Friars.
Villanova will try for their third straight win Saturday in Syracuse…Providence’s next game is Saturday at home against Louisville…Villanova improved their league best 77 percent from the foul line by going a perfect 14-14 from the line…Villanova leads the all-time series with a 33-21 record.