Villanova basketball has always been known for its clutch play, especially when it matters. Of all the players on the Wildcats roster, no one has embodied this clutch play in his four years than senior Ryan Arcidiacono.
Arcidiacono had yet another clutch play this afternoon at the Wells Fargo, when he sent the game into overtime with an incredible three pointer with seven seconds to go. It was the high point for this Villanova team, as both teams had been back and forth for the entirety of the game.
Unfortunately, these late game heroics were not enough, as the ‘Cats would fail to win it in overtime. They lost 82-76 to the visiting Friars.
“We just got beat by a team that played better”, said head coach Jay Wright. “We have won a few games where we didn’t play our best but we found a way to win. We didn’t play our best and a lot of it is because they did.”
Both teams came out rather sloppy. Villanova fell in love with the three-point line early, but wasn’t able to convert from long range. Meanwhile, Providence also had its fair share of missed shots and turnovers to halt the Friars’ momentum early on.
“Everyone was just trying to get a three as opposed to making a play”, said Wright. “That’s how we played earlier this season and that’s how we played today.”
After a Hart three pointer at the 14:48 mark (which ended the three pointer drought), the ‘Cats shifted into an offense that has been more consistent and successful throughout the season: an interior attack.
Villanova got to the basket and found much success.. This change of plans proved to be very successful, as it allowed the ‘Cats to gradually build a lead on a Friars team that couldn’t really catch fire early in the half, due to a strong Villanova defensive effort.
Jalen Brunson nailed a three at the buzzer to give Villanova a 37-35 lead at the half.
The second half was a much more riveting, back and forth affair. The Wildcats faced a much more invigorated Providence team in the second half. The momentum that the Friars had built late in the first carried on into the second half, as their scoring became more frequent thanks to the great play of Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil.
“We got contributions from everyone who stepped in for Providence College”, said Friars’ head coach Ed Cooley. “When Kris [Dunn] plays well and Ben [Bentil] plays well, we’ll find ourselves in good situations.”
The Wildcats, however, were quick to match the surge of the Friars. As has always been the case this season, Villanova began to clamp down even more so when it mattered. That, and they steadily began a surge of their own, matching Providence basket for basket. The attack within the paint continued, and kept Villanova in a back-and-forth battle against the Friars. The second half was wrought with lead changes between the two teams, as neither team could build beyond a one point lead.
It ended with the dramatic Arcidiacono three pointer.
“It’s a play we do every single day in practice, end of the game situation”, said Arcidiacono. “We just executed it. I caught it and just shot it and it went in”.
Overtime seemed to be Villanova’s for the taking, at least in the beginning. Arcidiacono, who had been relatively quiet before his breathtaking three pointer, came alive in a way reminiscent of his Big East Player of the Year play last year.
However, the Villanova defense was unable to lock down on the Friars in the final minutes of over time. A missed Arcidiacono free throw, and an answer by Providence, caused the game to be all but out of reach.
Villanova struggled beyond the arc, and at field goals in general. They shot 44% overall from the field, and 29% from beyond the arc. It was a team struggle that will probably be addressed in the next few days.
“We gotta get better. We need to go back to the basics. We got to continue to get better. We can’t get complacent with where we are”, said Josh Hart.
Villanova plays St. John’s on Sunday, January 31st, at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is at noon.