Pirates sink ‘Cats in close contest

Cailin Brophy

The rollercoaster ride continued for the Villanova faithful on Thursday as the ‘Cats suffered a tough-to-swallow 57-56 loss at the hands of a streaking Seton Hall squad.

Despite holding Pirate super-guard Andre Barrett scoreless in the second half, ‘Nova simply could not produce offensively in the waning moments of the contest, going without a field goal in the final 7:43 of the game while turning the ball over on its last five possessions. Hall guard John Allen was the hero of the night, as his mid-range jumper with two seconds remaining gave the Pirates the victory.

“[Allen] just had a strong will,” Hall head coach Louis Orr said. “He did not want to be denied.”

In what Villanova head coach Jay Wright called, “an old-fashioned Big East game,” the Wildcats were simply outhustled and outmuscled by the play of the Pirates at the end of regulation.

“They are a very physical team and it was a very physical game,” Wright said. “We were trying to spread the floor and just couldn’t go by them. They ran over screens, drove the ball and bodied us up. That is Big East basketball.”

Senior forward Ricky Wright echoed his coach’s sentiments at the disappointing loss.

“We relied on our defense at the end and we got stops, but we just got a little sloppy with the ball. They started pressing us and playing tougher defense.”

As the plot thickens in the battle for at-large NCAA bids in the Big East, the Pirates have begun to make a strong case for a possible postseason dance. Improving to 15-9 overall and 9-4 in conference play with their eighth straight win, the Pirates have edged their nose out ahead of ‘Nova coming down to the wire. The ‘Cats fall to 15-11 overall and 9-4 in Big East competition. With three games remaining, the Wildcats still have some room to run; what they don’t have much room for, however, is error.

“I know it doesn’t do much for the fans, but I do like the way we’ve played the last two games,” Wright said. “Two games in a row we’ve competed, we’ve defended and we’ve rebounded, but I’m disappointed for our seniors because time is running out.”

Senior forward Ricky Wright led the ‘Cats in the hustle department, falling just one point shy of a second straight double-double with nine points and 13 rebounds to go along with three assists and two blocked shots. The Wildcats were led in scoring by freshman guard Allan Ray, who came off the bench to record 12 points, the only ‘Nova player in double figures. Andreas Bloch, who has seen a huge increase in minutes over the past two games, and guard Randy Foye contributed to ‘Nova’s bench contribution with seven points apiece.

Although these ‘Cats aren’t lacking depth, what they are missing, according to coach Wright, is a player who they can rely on to put in a John Allen-esque performance.

“We don’t have that one go-to guy offensively,” Wright said. “We try to mix it up, look for matchups. We have a lot of good players, but we’re trying to get that one guy. Sometimes that hurts you in a physical game like this.”

‘Nova will travel to Blacksburg, Va. Saturday and try to shake off the bad-loss blues against the Hokies of Virginia Tech, as they fight for an invite to that coveted four-letter tournament party.

“We’ve just got to stay confident and stay together,” junior guard Derrick Snowden said after the game. “That’s the only thing you can do.”