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Villanova ends losing skid with 68-50 win over Providence

The Wildcats get a much-needed win to break their longest losing streak since 2011.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Villanova Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never pretty when Villanova and Providence square off, but when you win, it doesn’t need to be.

The two teams have had many tough, scrappy battles over the years and that trend continues, no matter who’s coaching or who’s suited up to take the court.

In a game that saw a combined 14 made shots between both teams in the first half, the Wildcats eventually jump-started their offense to enjoy a 68-50 win on Sunday night.

The win broke up a five-game losing streak for the ‘Cats, which was their longest skid since 2011.

“I’m pleased with our defensive effort in how hard we came out, and we made some shots as well,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “We talk about every day about going out and putting it all in on the defensive end. Our guys were in stances, there weren’t a lot of space out there for them to operate. We were really locked into the scouting report. They did an outstanding job, I’m proud of them.”

Providence, on the other hand, never found a rhythm.

The Wildcats opened up the second half with a 13-0 blitz to push their lead into the 20s. Tyler Burton drilled a pair of threes to fuel the run, while Eric Dixon and Lance Ware each chipped in buckets. Brendan Hausen topped things off with a three-pointer to make it 39-16 with 15:41 remaining.

Villanova led by as much as 26 midway through the first half. Providence chipped away at the deficit late, but it was far too great to overcome.

“Our guys really shared the ball,” Neptune said of Villanova’s offensive execution, which included 17 assists and only five turnovers. “They blitzed the post, really tried to take away Eric Dixon. To his credit, he got rid of it. Not sure how many assists he ended up with, but I felt like a lot of our baskets started with him getting rid of the ball. When you get stops, you get out in transition as well and we had easy baskets. They’re a really good defensive team, we had 26 at halftime, so it’s not like we had 50. They’re a tough team to score on, but we were physical and we shared it when they went inside and out.”

The ‘Cats put the clamps on the Friars and held them to a season-low 50 points. The Friars shot a season-low 7-of-33 (21.2%) from three-point range and had an eFG% of only 36.3%.

It initially looked like Villanova’s struggles would continue, after it made only one shot through the first seven minutes of the game. The ‘Cats got their first big run of the game, as Hakim Hart made a layup with 12:40 remaining in the first half, that eventually turned into a 12-3 lead over the next 6:30.

The ‘Cats led the remainder of the way, holding a 26-16 lead at the half, before putting it out of reach in the second half.

“Just a piss poor performance for us,” Providence coach Kim English said. “The most embarrassing performance I’ve been a part of since I’ve been involved in basketball. Obviously, it starts with me, I didn’t have our guys prepared to compete at the level which is needed to win a game at this juncture of the season, in February.”

Eric Dixon had a team-high 12 points, with five boards. Brendan Hausen supplied 11 points off the bench. Hakim Hart and T.J. Bamba each had nine points apiece.

Mark Armstrong returned to the starting five and had five points on just 2-of-13 shooting, but he recorded a team-high plus/minus rating of +23.

Lance Ware had one of his most productive games as a Wildcat. He only scored two points, but provided a good amount of energy on the glass and the defensive end. He had six rebounds and three blocks.

For Providence, Josh Oduro had an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double. Devin Carter finished with 17 points, including a 5-of-8 shooting clip from beyond the arc. Ticket Gaines chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds.

The Wildcats improve to 12-10 overall and 5-6 in Big East play. They return to action on Wednesday, for a road game against Xavier. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.

“We played extremely hard and we locked in defensively, but there’s still a lot of things we can get better at,” Neptune said. “We’re going to go back, watch the film and address those moving forward.”