In a true Tale of Two Halves, the #3 Villanova Wildcats overcame a dismal first half to knock off the Providence Friars 71-56 at the Finn on Saturday afternoon. The win moves Villanova to 10-1 (5-0) while Ed Cooley’s Friars fall to 8-7 (4-5).
Villanova opened the game with one of the team’s ugliest first half performances so far this season - shooting a miserable 26.7% from the field including 25% from three. While the ‘Cats defense was keeping the Friars’ offense in check (34% from the field), the ‘Nova offense was largely unable to capitalize on those stops.
Villanova had 7 turnovers in the first half - nearly matching the team’s game average for the season. Jay Wright’s squad looked a step slow - unable to turn the corner on the Providence’s defenders - leading to a number of off-balance and contested shots.
The ‘Cats finished the half with just 24 points - their lowest first half total of the season. Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore combined for 15 of those points, but on a collective 6-16 from the floor. Let’s just erase this half from our collective memory.
However, we did get to enjoy a patented Villanova-end-of-half bucket by Collin Gillespie to cut the lead to just 3 before the break.
Gillespie with a dagger before half to cut the Nova deficit to 3pic.twitter.com/Z1qrI9PYPU— Barstool Bench Mob (@stoolbenchmob) January 23, 2021
The start of the second half was briefly delayed due to a “lighting issue” in the Pavilion. A rogue beam of sunlight was steaming through a window on the concourse and obstructing the view of one of the baskets. Unfortunately, Radnor Township regulations prohibited Villanova from covering the window with the bricks from the first half - so the school settled for duct tape and a sheet.
Once play resumed, Villanova was able to reestablish itself on offense. Caleb Daniels, looking to get back to form, had a nice five point spurt to help finally put ‘Nova in the lead. After a few more made buckets and another Slamuels™ appearance, the ‘Cats jumped out to a double digit lead mid-way through the second half. Providence would not get within 10 the rest of the way as the ‘Cats cruised to a 71-56 victory.
Overall, this game isn’t going to win any beauty contests but a win is a win. The ‘Cats looked much sharper in the second half with only two turnovers. Villanova’s defense held Providence to just 38% from the floor and turned the Friars over 19 times. Jeremiah Robinson Earl, despite having another quiet game on offense, helped neutralize Nate Watson, who looked off-balance and rushed all afternoon.
Villanova finished the game with 19 assists and 4 scorers in double figures (Robinson-Earl finished with 9). Justin Moore and Collin Gillespie both finished with 15 points and combined for 11 assists. Jermaine Samuels poured in 10 of his own points and pulled down 10 boards.
The ‘Cats are scheduled to take on the Uconn Huskies this coming Thursday night at 9:00pm.