"We have such great respect for them. They're always a tough guard for us, so we know we're always going to have battles with them. We didn't expect anything different than it was tonight." Coach Wright added "I'm an old-school guy, but that was old-school Big East. That was fun, man"
Darryl Reynolds got the start in place of Daniel Ochefu, yet Ochefu still saw some time on the court. He would pick up 3 fouls in the first half. Even with all this, `Nova was able to win the rebounding battle on the day, 37-27. They also won the battle in the paint, scoring 40 compared to Providence's 22.
Ryan Arcidiacono got the game off to a hot start scoring on two layups and a banked three pointer. The Friars would not fall behind easily thanks to Rodney Bullock and Drew Edwards. On the other team, it was Darryl, Arch and Kris Jenkins who had all the points early on.
As the first half came to a close, Providence became cold. As Villanova took a 27-20 point lead, Providence was shooting just 31.5% while equally poor from three point land. The `Cats had a lot more success from the field going 12-22, but shot just 2-7 from long range.
Villanova extended that lead to 29-20, but Bullock went on his own 5-0 run to bring Providence right back in it. Bridges beat the shot clock on the other end for an old fashioned three point play, but It was Bentil who ended the half with his first field goal of the game to cut `Nova's lead to 32-27 at halftime.
Kris Dunn was 0-4 from the field in the first half, while Ben Bentil (the conference's leading scorer) was 1-4. The duo combined for just 12 points on 2-13 shooting. Dunn alone was 7-11 from the free throw line. "We took a chance defensively" said Wright on the plan for the conference's leading scorer and future NBA draft pick. "Bentil is one of the great scorers I've seen in this conference. We made sure to follow them and throw bodies on them, and that's why you had Rodney Bullock with 18 and Kyron Cartwright with 14. They're smart, they saw what we were doing. When you saw them taking wide open shots, that was the plan. We took a chance."
Arch lead both sides with 9 points on 4-8 shooting. Jenkins added 8 points of his own.
Jenkins took over in the second half with back to back three pointers, but free throw shooting kept Providence at a reachable distance.
Fouls would be an issue for both teams as Providence would be in the double bonus less that 11 minutes into the half. On the Friar side, Ben Bentil, the conference's leading scorer, fouled out halfway through the second half. Jalen Brunson would also foul out for the Wildcats, and Hart would reach 4.
Wright wasn't joking when he said they would throw bodies at Bentil. The forward finished with just 3 points on 1-5 shooting, along with just 6 rebounds and 5 turnovers.
It seemed like that sparked Providence. They went on a 9-0 run thanks to threes by Jalen Reynolds and Kyron Cartwright. A 12 point lead shrunk all the way to 2.
The hero on the night was Kris Jenkins; he would get an old fashioned three to put the momentum back on Villanova's side temporarily. Daniel Ochefu would have back to back easy buckets under the rim, but Rodney Bullock's three made sure the dagger would come at a later time.
"If he's on the floor, he's gonna give you his all," Arcidiacono said on Ochefu playing through his ankle injury. "Even if he's not scoring he's trying to make big plays."
Arcidiacono and Hart went 1-2 on consecutive fouls in the double bonus. Bullock, carrying the team all day, hit a three pointer with 1:10 left to bring the Friars within 6.