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McGair: Game footage from PC's first encounter with Villanova could prove most valuable

February 17, 2014

The first time Ed Cooley, standing, and Providence faced Villanova this season, the Wildcats won going away, 91-61. The rematch between these two longtime Big East rivals is set for Tuesday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN

PROVIDENCE – Ed Cooley didn’t mince words when asked if he planned to relive a nightmare on the hardwood.

Cue up the tape from Providence’s 30-point shellacking at the hands of Villanova? In the eyes of the head coach, why bother re-screening a game that would serve absolutely no purpose other than re-opening old wounds?

“Not a second of that game,” Cooley emphatically stated, those words coming Saturday afternoon.

Amid that lopsided and one-sided January night at The Pavillion, there has to be a basketball-related teachable moment or two worth revisiting for the simple reason of making sure the same mistakes aren’t repeated come Tuesday night when PC welcomes Villanova to what Cooley hopes is a packed and raucous Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Monday at Alumni Hall, Cooley stood by his initial statement that no horror flicks starring Jay Wright’s Wildcats will be shown. If anything, he comes across as completely believable.

“I have yet to watch any game clips of that whatsoever, I refuse to,” Cooley said. “I just think it puts a negative tone to it.”

Added senior Kadeem Batts, “You’ve got to erase that one.”

Given a dose of truth serum, Bryce Cotton admitted that his Friar mates have watched “a little bit” of the Villanova wipeout “but there’s not much you can take out if it. We just played horrible and they played fantastic. We didn’t have focus or energy and there’s not much you can pinpoint other than that.

“It’s something we definitely don’t want to relive again,” Cotton continued.

To clarify, the 91-61 drubbing by Villanova, a club Cooley feels is a legit contender for the national title, did happen. It hasn’t been stricken from PC’s record just because Cooley sees little redeeming value in taking a trip down memory lane, however painful the set of circumstances that has led to this perceived denial of actuality.

The cold facts from that first encounter with Villanova should serve as a source of great motivation for PC, which desperately needs one of those “signature victories” that the hoops punditocracy loves to talk about when discussing NCAA credentials.

The Friars were a soundly-beaten lot when they departed Philadelphia six weeks ago. Before them stands a great opportunity to atone for past sins.

“Bad night for us, great night for them. We came out flat, they came out with tremendous energy,” recalled Batts. “We knew that we had them on the schedule again and definitely remember that blowout. If we don’t play with any vengeance, there’s something wrong with us.”
Along those lines, Cotton admitted that he has resisted the temptation of circling Tuesday’s contest in red. Getting another crack at the Wildcats shouldn’t be the sole driving force.

“Given the situation we’re in, we need to take care of each game one game at a time,” Cotton noted. “No game is more important than the other.”

“They’re all important,” echoed Cooley.

True, but it’s not every day that a golden opportunity such as facing the No. 9 team in the land on your turf presents itself.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Cooley said. “I think this is the last ranked team we’re going to play at home until next year. It’s an opportunity (for fans) to come out and support their team, not to watch another team.”

The Wildcats faced the Friars one night after prized freshman Brandon Austin tenured his resignation and let it be known that he planned to transfer. Since that weekend of mind-numbing developments, PC has gone through a series of highs and lows. There’s been a five-game winning streak that helped position Cooley & Co. near the top of the Big East mountain along with a six-game stretch where the Friars dropped four.

The past can’t be ignored and just swept under the rug. Remember when PC beat St. John’s, Georgetown and Xavier? In all three instances, the Friars came out on the wrong end when they saw the Red Storm, Hoyas and Musketeers again.

Surely Steve Lavin (St. John’s), John Thompson III (Georgetown) and Chris Mack (Xavier) popped in a copy of the first meeting in advance of the rematch. Was it painful to revisit the fashion in which Cotton sliced and diced his way to a big night? No doubt, but it had to be done. How else are you going to learn how to knock a team off the rails?

As painful and forgettable as PC’s first encounter with Villanova was, it also serves as key circumstantial evidence that one figures would prove quite handy when cooking up a plan of attack for the encore meeting.

In other words, roll tape and make sure not to cover your eyes. It may just end up working to Providence’s advantage.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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