In the first game for the new year, Villanova reached new heights against Providence. The Wildcats took a 50-26 lead into halftime. The 24 point lead was the largest lead at halftime this season. The Wildcats were shooting 32% from long range, tonight they were 14 for 26 (53.8%). Last year, Villanova was swept by the Friars losing both meetings last season, leaving many fans and analysts scratching their heads due to the fact that it was supposed to be a pair of easy wins. A new season, and new year, the Wildcats have finally got the monkey off their back.
The Wildcats raced to a 17-3 lead over the Friars, and kept the momentum going for the first half. They absolutely dominated both sides of the court and left Providence in frustration. On offense, they spread the ball across the floor. Providence coach Ed Cooley told reporters before the game that in order for his team to have a chance tonight, they would have to restrict the Wildcats to no more than 6 three pointers. The Wildcats had the hot hand in the first half, sinking seven baskets from beyond the arc. They were able to do it without one of their key three point weapons, James Bell, who sat out for most of the first half after picking up two quick fouls. Overall, they shot better than their opponents 57.6% to 31.8%. Everyone got a piece of the action, including the reserves, who scored 20 of the 50 first half points. Josh Hart and Dylan Ennis both sank a pair of threes each. On defense, the Wildcats smothered the Friars. They gave Providence no easy looks to the basket. It often looked like the Providence player that had the ball was covered in a sea of white jerseys where ever he went.
The second half was more of the same for both teams. JayVaughn Pinkston continued to beat the Friars inside. He would finish with 19 points, 7 rebounds, and a pair of assists. Bell would come back into the game and join the barrage of three pointers, making back to back threes before fouling out with 9:08 left. Villanova would sink another 7 three pointers in the second half, bringing up their total to an amazing 14 for the game. There was a scary moment in which Ennis and Ryan Arcidiacono collided hard into one another. Both players were knocked to the floor due to the collision and looked rattled when they got up. Ennis would later return to the game and Arcidiacono would sit for the rest of the game. Hopefully he’s okay, he had a solid game with seven points (3 for 3 with one three pointer), three assists, and three steals. Despite the big lead, the defense did not let up, continuing to play hard. The Friars were held to a 37.9% shooting performance in the second half. Villanova cruised to the 91-61 win.
Aside from Pinkston, three other Wildcats put up double digit figures. Darrun Hilliard had 15 points, 3 rebounds and a pair of assists. Ennis had a big game with 17 points, including four three pointers. The fourth member in the club, Hart, had 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.
For Providence, Bryce Cotton carried the team for most of the game. He was the high scorer of the night with 25 points. He also had six rebounds and six assists on the night. LaDontae Henton had 17 points for the Friars. Kadeem Batts added 10 points.
The Wildcats will head over to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey in order to take on the Pirates of Seton Hall. The game will be this Wednesday, January 8 at 7 p.m.