No. 3 Villanova too much for No. 11 Providence in 72-60 win
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Villanova was overpowered on both ends of the floor in its overtime loss at home to Providence last month, the first vulnerability shown by a team that was unbeaten in Big East play.
The Friars came in a step slower for the rematch and the Wildcats took full advantage.
Darryl Reynolds had a career-high 19 points and 10 rebounds and third-ranked Villanova held off a late rally to defeat No. 11 Providence 72-60 on Saturday.
The win gets the Wildcats to 20 victories and avenges its lone Big East loss this season. Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 points as the Wildcats (20-3, 10-1) earned their 12th victory in 13 games.
Providence’s Ben Bentil, who came in as the conference’s leading scorer, didn’t start and was bothered by the right ankle he sprained in the Friars’ loss at DePaul on Tuesday. After scoring just two points in the first half, he scored 18 in the final 20 minutes.
But it wasn’t enough to pull the Friars out of deep deficit.
“We’re going to talk about a lot of great things we did, but we’re not dismissing the fact their best player and leading scorer was not at 100 percent. But that’s basketball,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
Villanova led by as many as 17 in the second half before seeing its lead cut to four with 2:59 to play on a 3-pointer by Bentil.
But the Wildcats handled the Friars’ full court pressure down the stretch, knocking down open shots late in the shot clock and capitalizing on extra possessions after offensive rebounds.
Villanova also stepped up on the defensive end, pushing Providence to take perimeter shots. The Friars shot just 33 percent (19 of 57) from the field for the game and were outscored in the paint 32-14.
The Wildcats played without 6-foot-11 Daniel Ochefu, who missed his third straight game with a concussion he sustained in practice. He remains under the university’s concussion protocol.
“It feels good, but we definitely miss our senior leader,” Reynolds said. “The goal is to keep it going. Our coach is always preaching that one guy goes down, the next one is ready to step up.”
Bentil led Providence (18-6, 6-5) with 20 points. Kris Dunn added 11.
Villanova seized on Bentil’s absence to start the game, quickly taking a 10-0 lead.
Bentil began the game on the sideline riding an exercise bike, but after the first seven Wildcats’ points, Providence coach Ed Cooley checked him into the game.
Even with their leader on the court, the Friars struggled. They missed seven of their first eight shots and couldn’t match the Wildcats’ aggressiveness on the inside.
Villanova built a 19-point lead in the opening 20 minutes and held a 27-15 rebounding advantage.
“I think you need to have a simple message to your team. It’s a long season, but we’re still in good shape. It’s tough with the way we’ve played lately,” Cooley said.
Villanova: Is now 6-0 on the road in Big East play and 21-3 away from home in league play over the last three seasons. ... Wright improves to 17-8 all-time against Providence.
Providence: Got outrebounded 46-29. ... Drops to 4-3 against Top 25 teams this season. ...Trails all-time series with Villanova 57-39.
MAKING IMPROVMENT: Reynolds entered the game averaging just 2.2 points. Wright said part of the development is from going against Ochefu in practice.
“We tell him that he’s improving. People aren’t just seeing it, but they’re going to,” Wright said. “The fact he was ready for this shows his maturity and intelligence because he’s been playing like this in practice.”
UNHAPPY HOME: Providence dropped to 2-4 at home in conference play, including two straight. Dunn said this week he embraces the opportunity to play in front of hostile crowds. The Friars play three of their next four on the road, including a rematch with Xavier, which Providence lost to 75-68 at home on Jan. 26.
Villanova: Travels to DePaul on Tuesday
Providence: Travels to Marquette on Wednesday.
AP college basketball website: collegebasketball.ap.org
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