A classic Big East battle to say the least.
The Wildcats advance to the Big East Tournament Finals for the first time since 1997.
LaDontae Henton got his team going early with a three, but Darrun Hilliard answered with seven of his own. While the Friars brought the game within two points, they shot only 2-8 from the field at the first TV timeout.
Luckily for the Friars, `Nova shot 1-6 from beyond the arc, so they never trailed too far behind. When Providence approached double digit deficits, Kris Dunn made sure the team still stayed in it, hitting a few threes and some layups, including a nifty layup where he switched hands in the air. Villanova lead 31-20 after Josh Hart made a three, and Providence called timeout. That's where they surged.
Thanks to Carlos Desrosiers, Dunn and Jalen Lindsey, PC went on an 8-2 run to close out the half only down 33-28. Providence, a team who averaged 12 turnovers a game this season, had 8 in the first half. Dunn alone had four. The Friars outrebounded the Wildcats 18-15 in the half, helping lead to some transition points. Foul trouble struck some Friars; Paschal Chukwu had 3 and Dunn, Henton, Ben Bentil had 2 a piece.
Villanova had won 51 straight games when leading at the half.
The Wildcats started the second half with high intensity- Daniel Ochefu blocked Bentil's shot and Ryan Arcidiacono made a three. Ed Cooley immediately called timeout.
Villanova got into their own foul trouble as Hilliard picked up his 3rd. Booth and Arch already had 2. Bentil hit a three and the Garden got louder as the Friars were only down one possession. However, the Wildcats had an answer.
Josh Hart found Daniel Ochefu in the paint for a JAM. Hart then dished to Ennis who had a layup for his only field goal of the night. All of a sudden the `Cats had an 8-point lead.
Desrosiers now took charge for the Friars. When the `Cats lead by 13, he had an old-fashioned 3-point play to bring the deficit to 10. He ended the game with 7 points. Dunn got it down to 8. At this point, Providence was shooting 14-44 (31.8%) and Villanova was a much more efficient 17-37 (45.9%). Both teams were under 30% from beyond the arc, but Providence lead the rebounding battle 30-22.
Villanova went scoreless for the next 2+ minutes and Lindsey's three pointer cut the Villanova lead to five. Bentil later had a wide open dunk to bring the Friars to within three. Ochefu gave the `Cats some breathing room with the foul and FT. Ochefu would again come to the rescue when he ripped a rebound from Desrosiers, drew a foul and hit both his free throws. The Wildcats lead 52-46 with 7:00 left.
Thanks to some beautiful passing, Bentil had an old-fashioned three point play and the Friars were again within only three. Daniel Ochefu and Josh Hart had back-to-back layups, but Lindsey's three brought the Friars to within four into the final TV timeout. Lindsey finished with 9 points.
Rebounding still played a role- on numerous occasions the Wildcats could not hold onto the ball on the defensive side and Providence got many second chance opportunities. The Friars outrebounded 37-27 at this time, 18-8 solely on offensive rebounds. It made up for Providence shooting 33.3% to Villanova's 43.5%.
Villanova then went scoreless for three minutes. Dunn and Bentil each hit 1-2 free throws, so it's now a two point game. Hart broke that drought with a three, but LaDontae Henton hit two free throws on a sloppy foul by Hilliard. He then hit a jumper, but fouled Henton again (sloppy) to foul out. LaDontae only hit one free throw, finishing with 9 points on 2-9 shooting. The Friars trailed by four. The Wildcats turned the ball over with 22.3 seconds, so Providence needed two baskets.
Dunn drove right to the basket for the layup. The Wildcats clearly did not want to foul, but they were too soft. On the inbounds play, Hart lost the ball and Bentil found Dunn for the game-tying layup with 12.4 left.
Arch brought up the ball and got fouled on what was a questionable call by many. No matter, he hit both free throws and Henton's prayer at the buzzer missed the rim.
Co-POY Kris Dunn had a phenomenal game: 22 points on 9-19 shooting, with 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Ochefu finished with a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds. He added 5 blocks. Bentil had a double-double too, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.