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Villanova vs. Providence final score: Wildcats handle Friars 89-61, claim regular season Big East championship

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Senior Night was a success!

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

"Glad that $%&#'s over," Ed Cooley said in his opening statement. He was probably referring to Villanova's 89 points on 53.2% shooting.

"We didn't play well," he again summarized. "I thought I was the worst coach in the country today."

A hot second half lead to a Villanova Wildcats win over the Providence Friars 89-61.

It all began with Senior Night Festivities. Darrun Hilliard walked down the student section bleachers and met his parents, followed by JayVaughn Pinkston coming to meet his mom. As the students' chants of "JVP! JVP! JVP!" died down, it was time to face the real meaning of the game: lock up consecutive Regular Season Big East Championships.

Ed Cooley raved about how Villanova is under appreciated nationally: "I think they're easily the second best number one seed overall."

"That was probably our best defensive effort of the year," Wright said after the game.

The `Cats started out sloppy with missed field goals by Dylan Ennis and Hilliard, and missed free throws scattered in there as well. However, Ryan Arcidiacono put the team back on track by hitting a three for the game's first basket. From there until the end of the game, the WIldcats fed off of Providence turnovers. At the first TV timeout, Providence had turnovers and all of Villanova's points came from them. Darrun Hilliard already had four steals.

Those trends continued for most of the first half with JVP and Hilliard leading the scoring for the `Cats. Villanova maintained a double digit lead for most of the first half until the fourth TV timeout. From there, Villanova went scoreless and the Friars went on a 7-0 run to enter the second half only down nine points at 34-25.

Providence had 10 assists for their 11 first half FG's. Kris Dunn had 7 of those alone. Phil Booth, Pinkston and Arch all had 6 points at the half, while Providence's Ben Bentil lead all scorers with 7 on 3-3 shooting. Villanova had 14 points off turnovers.

Providence remained hot to start the second half as LaDontae Henton started with a 3-pointer, followed by Tyler Harris' cut to the basket. Henton finished with 12 points and Harris had 18 on 8-11 shooting.

Providence got the game to within 6 points, but that was immediately put away with Darrun Hilliard and Ochefu free throws and FOUR Hilliard 3-pointers, three of whom were back-to-back. At that point the crowd got to their feet, Hilliard showed a lot of emotion, and Providence was all but officially done. The single-digit deficit was all of a sudden a 20-point one.

Hilliard stated the beginning of the game got emotional. "I saw my mom crying, that kinda broke me a little." He was 1-7 at the half but had 4 steals. Darrun finished with 24 points on 6-13 (6-11) and 6-6 FT. He also had 4 rebounds. Darrun emphasized that defense is his focus when playing. "I take it upon myself defensively. Offensively is a plus."

"All the credit is to Arch." The senior captain obviously has a lot of respect for his point guard.

Pinkston echoed those emotions: "I just wanted to stay focused on the game. I wasn't worried too much about Senior Night. I just wanted to stay strong." He was second behind Hilliard in scoring with 16 points on 7-11 with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. It's nice seeing him back on the offensive end of things; it's a tool the team will need to utilize with Daniel Ochefu to make a deep run in March. Ochefu only had 6 points but was 4-4 from the charity stripe and had 8 rebounds.

Wright had strong words for how important this group of seniors is for the future of the program. "If you look at this class, these guys lived through 13-19. They're the only guys in the program who understand that. Everybody else has done nothing but win. There were a lot of times this year I could refer to JayVaughn or Darrun and say 'Talk to these guys' and they know. They've lead us all the way to this point. When you see Daniel and Ryan, you'll see they look up to these guys."

He continued the rise out of the 'dark times' of a few years ago. "They were looking at a Final Four team, and that first year was disappointing. These are the guys that stayed. You know JayVaughn's story; he never thought of giving in or giving up on Villanova. And Hilliard never thought of giving in or giving up on Villanova. And this group will always be special because what they went through and where they brought us."

While emotions are high and the goal seems to be met, there is still work to do. Another win and Villanova clinches sole possessions of the number 1 seed in the Big East Tournament. They face the Xavier Musketeers on Saturday, February 28th at 2:00pm. It will air on FOX.