After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Marquette on Saturday, Villanova’s men’s basketball team was back in action at the Finneran Pavilion earlier tonight against Providence in another Big East battle. After a back and forth slugfest well into the second half, the ‘Cats were able to pull away for an, 85-67, victory over the Friars to sweep the regular season series.
Providence guard David Duke opened the scoring with a tough layup a little less than a full minute into the game. In the ensuing possession down the court, Collin Gillespie was able to draw a foul on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws to put his Wildcats on the board. As the game went on in the first half, neither team was able to gain any sort of edge until Villanova went on a quick 7-0 run over a two-and-a-half-minute span with two shots from the charity stripe by Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, a triple from captain Phil Booth and mid-range pull up shot from captain Eric Paschall. Once again, it was the freshman Duke who was able to go get a bucket for his Friars to end ‘Nova’s run. Both teams traded baskets from that point on as neither squad was able to start any sort of run in order to gain ground on their opponent. Villanova extended their lead to, 39-31, with 46 seconds left in the half after a layup by Gillespie. Providence was not content though, as junior forward Alpha Diallo hit a long ball with six seconds to go, sending the Friars to the locker room down, 39-34.
As the second half began, Paschall was able to drive the lane for another layup to open the scoring before Nate Watson hit a jumper in the lane for the Friars to keep Providence within five points. The second half was a story of runs as Providence went on a quick 7-0 run early on to tie the game at 45. A few minutes later, after ‘Nova made its own 8-0 run to regain a, 53-45 lead, Providence refused to back down as they sparked a 10-0 run for a, 55-53, lead by hitting six free throws on three consecutive possessions followed by back to back layups from Isaiah Jackson and Maliek White. As a result, head coach Jay Wright had to call a timeout to get his squad recomposed following the Providence onslaught. Cosby-Roundtree was able to get the score back to 55 apiece after an assist from his captain Booth. With the game hanging in the balance at, 62-61, ‘Nova, the ‘Cats finally found their stride offensively and put the game away for good by going on a 23-6 run aided by four deep balls. Freshman Saddiq Bey stepped up and hit two threes during the run for his six points in the contest and Booth and Paschall each dropped in a shot of their own from long range. This final push put the game on ice for a final score of, 85-67.
Villanova was able to get back to their winning ways by relying on the two players that led them to their previous 11 game winning streak before the Marquette loss. The key to the game was feeding the senior captains early and often whenever ‘Nova needed a bucket. Paschall finished with 25 points while shooting 5-6 on three balls and 10-13 total. Not to be outdone, Booth poured in 22 points of his own on a solid 8-16 shooting night.
Coach Wright gave all the credit to his leaders in his postgame presser when discussing Providence’s 10-0 run in the second half. “It starts with Eric and Phil,” Wright said. “They keep everybody together… I was really proud of our guys.”
Villanova will be back in action this Sunday as they take a road trip up I-95 to New York City to play St. John’s in Madison Square Garden at 5 p.m.