After coming away with the 89-69 win against Providence at the Wells Fargo Center a few weeks ago, the Villanova Wildcats (23-2) needed to come out pouncing on the ProvidenceFriars (16-9) tonight after dropping to #3 in the AP Poll earlier this week.
Jalen Brunson was the first to get points on the board tonight for the ‘Cats, recently named to the Naismith Trophy Late Season Top 30 List for Men’s College Players of the Year, along with teammate Mikal Bridges.
Omari Spellman came out to the court wearing a protective mask tonight due to a fracture of a small facial bone. However, his play proved to be big in clutch situations, along with putting up double-digits in points. When such a team has three big players unavailable, someone needs to come to the court bringing a game of new intensity.
Starting off tonight's game, Providence drained its first two field goal attempts and led the ‘Cats 5-0. The Cats have been slow to come out on top in the past series of games...putting them in a deficit, forcing them to play chase up to the start of the second half.
At the first official timeout, the Friars were 5-of-7 from the field while holding an 11-6 lead, while Brunson got all the first points on the board for the Cats.
At 11:39, the Friars held the Wildcats brutally scoreless for over 3 minutes and forced three turnovers within that span.
Colin Gillespie came in at the 12-minute mark in the first half when Providence held the 15-10 lead, as Wildcat fans were hoping this would spark a fire...but soon rather, all four freshman were on the floor for the Wildcats at 7:48.
By the half, Brunson and Bridges had the most points on the board (6) while Brunson led to be 3-of-7 from the field.
Alpha Diallo played exceptional defense for Providence in the first to hold back the ‘Cats while Jalen Lindsey hit his second triple of the night before the half.
The ‘Cats, who average 11 three-point shots per game and being 14th in the country in such category, they trailed 0-of-7 behind the arc, and only provided 2 assists in the first, while the Friars ticketed 7.
The score at the half led Villanova to be trailing... once again before the start of the second half, with that score being 23-27.
23 points is a season low for the ‘Cats, as far as a first half goes.
A Brunson runner in transition after a stop won the Wildcats the first basket of the second half; however, the Friars open second half 3-4 from beyond the arc and were 4-7 from the field, which allowed them to sustain the lead throughout the half.
Bridges got the Cats their very first 3 of the night, leading Villanova closer in the chase trailing 43-39.
Rodney Bullock’s heck-of-a-dunk at 9:53 provided as a new motivation for the Friars which sustained the scoring gap between the Cats and Friars. Bullock scored 14 points for the Friars tonight, while Senior Jalen Lindsey, the Friars best (and highest volume) shooter who was recently out with a head injury held 13 points.
The Cats truly started to fall apart with 4:58 on the clock, when Bridges hit his fourth foul of the night, too while the Friars decided to put backup PG Maliek White.
Soon after, with 1:08 left to play the Friars were leading 69-62, when both Villanova’s Bridges and Brunson were done for the night, 5 fouls a piece.
With 1 minute left on the clock, Spellman put up a SLAM-of-a-dunk to get the Cats back on track only trailing by five, at 67-62. Also within the final minute of the game, Gillespie hit a 3 advancing the Cats to find their way back to only trail by four, sequentially hitting layup...with the score now at 69-72.
However, this did not prove not to be enough for the Cats tonight...
Summarizing tonight’s game for VU, the ‘Cats had 10 turnovers total, while Brunson had led 7 of them.
The final score of tonight's game led to be 71-76, Friars, as The Friartown crowd stormed the court at the end of tonight’s game.
Next the Cats will look to come back, coming out with an earlier lead, as they take on Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio at 4:30pm E.T. this Saturday.