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Divine Providence at the Dunk’: Friars Upset Villanova 76-71

The Friars now have wins over Xavier and Villanova.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Providence Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova came into Wednesday night at 23-2 and ranked third in the AP Poll. They were getting back starter Eric Paschall, coming off a big win against Butler, and looking to sweep the season series against Providence.

Just four days after their worst loss of the season, Ed Cooley and the Friars had other ideas.

First Half

The Friars jumped out to a 7-0 start, hitting their first three shots, while riding a ruckus home crowd. At the under-16 timeout however, it was both teams shooting north of 60%. The hot start was vitally important for Providence, as they needed to keep their home crowd engaged and hostile.

Providence cooled off over the next few minutes, but kept the number three team in the nation at bay thanks to an engaged and active half-court defense. Cooley’s bunch slowed the Wildcats into just 8 shots over the first 8:30 of this one.

Jalen Brunson was effective in the early going, as Providence struggled to find a way to guard both him and Donte DiVincenzo, often switching Alpha Diallo between the two of them.

As one of the nation’s best point guards was having his way on the offensive end, the Friars went cold, falling into one of their habitual scoring droughts. This one lasted 6 minutes and included two offensive fouls thanks to Villanova finding their groove on defense. Two Isaiah Jackson free throws ended the 9-0 Wildcats run.

The first 20 minutes were a pure rock fight, as Providence’s active defense gave the Wildcats all they could handle, while Villanova prohibited the Friars from getting any easy looks inside.

Villanova shot 39% in the first half compared to Providence’s 31%. Both teams were ice cold from beyond the arc until the Friars hit 2 of their final four threes to end the frame. On the other side, the Wildcats didn’t have a field goal in their final 5:17.

Providence led 27-23 at the half.

Second Half

This one’s pace picked up immediately in the second frame. Possession lengths shortened, shots began to fall, and the urgency went through the roof.

With 14:09 remaining, Kyron Cartwright picked up his fourth foul to make things interesting. I’m going to be blatantly honest here, this second half was pure chaos. There were benching warnings, horrific calls on both sides, and vulgar chants galore. It was everything that’s great about college basketball shoved into one 20-minute span.

Each team opened the first ten minutes shooting 69% or higher from the field. It was apparent that the rock fight had reverted back into a basketball game.

With Cartwright sitting due to foul trouble, Rodney Bullock flipped on his aggressive switch and took control on offense for the Friars. Providence hadn’t seen this version of Bullock in quite some time, but it was much needed with Cartwright on the bench.

The Friars were able to control the pace for a majority of the second half, but Villanova would make their inevitable late push. Providence held their own, and fought off the giants from Philly.

Game Notes

  • Five Friars scored in double figures tonight: Kyron Cartwright (17), Rodney Bullock (14), Alpha Diallo (14), Jalen Lindsey (13), Isaiah Jackson (11).
  • Jalen Brunson had 7 turnovers and finished with 14 points and 5 assists.
  • Villanova finished 3/30 from long range and coughed up 19 turnovers.
  • This is the first Providence win at home over a top 5 opponent since they defeated No. 1 Pittsburgh in 2009.
  • Some Twitter action for Friar fans. Villanova fans, shield your eyes: