The Villanova Wildcats were able to take care of business at home and sweep the Providence Friars for the first time since the 2019-20 season.
The Wildcats were led by Caleb Daniels’ 20-point outing as well as 15 points from Eric Dixon and 14 from Collin Gillespie. The Friars were led by Jared Bynum with 19 points and 10 assists as well as AJ Reeves and Noah Horchler each netting five three pointers.
Out of the gate, Providence started on fire from beyond the arc, with AJ Reeves, Justin Minaya, and Noah Horchler each connecting from deep on three consecutive possessions. A three from an unlikely source on the other end (Eric Dixon) would stem the tide and a highlight reel poster dunk by Brandon Slater awoke the crowd and propelled Villanova’s big first half run.
Villanova would end the first half on a 9-0 run, complete with a first half buzzer beating three from Justin Moore. In the second half, Providence came out of the gates much like they did to start the first half. A 6-6 start from beyond the arc would cut the Villanova lead to just four with thirteen minutes to play.
Providence would eventually come all the way back to tie the game, but a timely three from Collin Gillespie gave Villanova the boost it needed to get back on track. With just under five minutes to go, the game had turned into an all-out three-point contest with teams going back and forth exchanging blows.
A Justin Minaya three with just over thirty seconds to go brought the Friars within one, but Villanova is the best free throw shooting team in the country. Combine that with outstanding ball security down the stretch and it is tough for any team to beat Villanova in a game of free throws. In the end, a Justin Minaya inbound pass was intercepted by Eric Dixon, who was doing his best Darius Slay impression, to give the Wildcats the win.
‘We made too many mistakes when the game was close, and we couldn’t get over the hump,’ Providence head coach Ed Cooley exclaimed after the game.
Ed Cooley is right, where the game was won and lost was in the turnover battle. Providence finished the game with 16 turnovers to Villanova’s 5. Those 16 turnovers accounted for 18 of Villanova’s 76 points, a disparity the Friars cannot afford to be on the losing end of in March. An eye-popping stat in favor of the Friars however was the fifteen three’s they connected on. Just two shy of a school record, Providence not only shot the ball from deep well, but they did also it efficiently too, connecting on a higher percentage of threes than twos.
The Friars already had the conference locked up, and without Al Durham, aptly named ‘The Closer’ for his signature late game heroics, Providence could have game into this game and mailed it in, but they did not. This team is too proud to do so and taking Villanova down to the wire at the pavilion shows merit from a team that is not done yet.
‘How many more of these do we need?’ said hall of fame head coach Jay Wright following yet another heart pounding win.
Villanova has been in close games at home, on the road and in neutral site games. There is no rhyme or reason for their inability to close games, but it is something that has been hampering the Wildcats all year long. This time however the Wildcats were able to get the job done with their always reliable free throw shooting, as well as their emphasis on ball security.
The Wildcats will head to the
Hinkle House of Horrors Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday to play a Butler team who has not quite lived up to expectations this year. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Collin Gillespie will tie Phil Booth for most games played in a Villanova uniform on Saturday, which is truly a testament to his dedication and exemplary commitment to this program.
After that both teams will head to the best sports venue in the world, Madison Square Garden, to participate in the Big East Tournament. As CBS analyst Jon Rothstein always says; If you plan on watching or attending the 2022 Big East Tournament at MSG, please consult with your nearest cardiologist. So with that being said, get your nitroglycerin and popcorn ready Big East fans because I do not think that this Villanova victory will be the last time we see these two teams play each other in March.
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