PHILADELPHIA, PA. 1/21/2017 – The Wells Fargo Center is a home away from home for the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats who have a 15 – 2 record in this building over the last few years. One of the teams that handed Villanova loss here was the Providence Friars, the last team to beat the Cats in this building. A battle was expected. The Wildcats would get a lead, the Friars came back, a scenario that would happen again and again. Into the second half the game was still in doubt. Then, Villanova delivered the decisive run and went on to a 78 – 68 win over Providence.
Josh Hart led the way with 25 points and also contributed 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Fellow senior Kris Jenkins added 19 points and 4 rebounds and assists. Darryl Reynolds pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. The seniors got the team through a tough game. All seniors who have been through this situation before.
“It was tough,” said Hart. “We have to use our experience not to let up and keep going.”
The Wildcats started each half as if they would blow the game open. To start the game the Wildcats opened a 12 – 4 lead holding the Friars without a field goal over a span of nearly six and a half minutes. Undaunted, the PC climbed back into the game holding the Villanova offense in check to get to within 35 – 31 at halftime.
Nova started the second half scoring the first 8 points. Much like the first half Providence scrapped their way back, and closed the gap to 48 – 40 with just over 13 minutes to play behind 7 points by forward Rodney Bullock.
Then the Wildcats would deliver the decisive run as their top scorers came to the fore. Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, and Kris Jenkins would be in the midst of a 14 – 3 run, with a boost from Mikal Bridges, as Nova extended to a 62 – 43 lead at the 9:19 mark. The Friars would not go away closing to within 9 with 5:05 on the clock, but the gap was too large to overcome.
“It was a good win,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said. “We had a couple of times to put them away, but we need more consistency on defense.”
The Cats had five players that registered assists with Brunson having 6, a career-high tying effort for the eighth time. As a team Nova assisted 19 times on their 30 field goals. Bridges handed out 4 and chipped in 15 points. Brunson also had 13 points.
For Providence (13 – 8, 3 – 5) Bullock had a team-high 17 points with Jalen Lindsay getting 12. Kyron Cartwright battled illness, but scored 12 points and handed out 5 assists. The Friars had 12 turnovers, 8 in the second half from which Nova got 16 points.
“The game got away from us with turnovers and missed opportunities at the rim in the second half,” said Providence Coach Ed Cooley. “They capitalized off our turnovers.”
Villanova improves to 19 – 1, 7 – 1 in the Big East. The Wildcats go on the road for their next conference game at Marquette. They return to the Center for a non-conference game with Virginia.
Written By: Glenn Papazian