VILLANOVA, PA. 2/24/2015 – The sixth ranked Villanova Wildcats expected a test when the #25 Providence Friars came to visit the Pavilion. Villanova passed winning easily 89 – 61 on Senior Night. With the win the Wildcats clinched at least a tie for the Big East Conference regular season title.
“That is really special to us,” said guard Darrun Hilliard about the achievement. “Going into the postseason like this in this type of league is a great honor to us; going against those types of players and those types of coaches. It is an honor to have done what we are doing and to keep going.”
The Wildcats got off to a fast start jumping out to a 20 – 6 lead less than 12 minutes into the game. The hosts were ferocious on defense forcing turnovers and converting. Villanova forced 9 turnovers that lead to a 14 – 2 advantage in points off turnovers in the first half. For the game the Friars turned the ball over 15 times that resulted in 25 Wildcat points.
“That was our best defensive effort of the year,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “I was really proud of our guys. We have great respect for Providence.”
In the second half the three-point shots began to fall as the Blue and White made 9 of 14 (64.3%) from beyond the arc and 13 of 25 for the game. Hilliard converted 6 of 11 from deep.
Providence got to within 6 points early in the latter stanza, but a 25 – 6 run over six and a half minutes put the game firmly in the win column for Villanova.
Seniors JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard were honored before the game. Hilliard scored a game-high 24 points. Pinkston added 16 points and 8 rebounds. For the game the Blue and White made 53.2% from the filed (25 for 47) and had 15 assists on their 25 field goals. Five players posted double figures in scoring.
“We didn’t play well and they played great,” said Providence Coach Ed Cooley who feels underrated Villanova can make a deep run in March.
“It’s amazing how the (media) pro’s aren’t talking about Villanova as a number one seed. Villanova is not respected enough.”
The Wildcats improve to 26 – 2 overall and are 13 – 3 in the Big East. The Friars fall to 9 – 6 in conference and are presently behind Butler for third-place in the league. Villanova goes on a two-game road trip to Xavier and Creighton before concluding the regular season against St. John’s at the Wells Fargo Center on March 7.
“We’re really concentrating on finishing our regular season strong, and that is really hard to do,” Wright said.
Written By: Glenn Papazian