The last home loss for Villanova was almost exactly one year ago on Saturday, coming from Providence at the Wells Fargo Center.
In that game, star point guards Kris Dunn of Providence and Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono dueled in an overtime battle that eventually saw Dunn’s Friars come out on top.
In this year’s rematch with Providence–exactly one year later from that overtime showdown–with Arcidiacono no longer with the ‘Cats, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins led Villanova to avenge last year’s loss with a 78-68 victory.
“Both of them are two of the best players in college basketball,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We’re lucky to have them on our team, very lucky. They defend, they rebound and they’re leaders. They score, they pass, and they’re just complete players.”
Hart picked apart the Friars defense at will, blowing by his man and wreaking havoc in the paint en route to a game-high 25-point performance. Hart came up big in the second half, where he scored 16 of his 25 points, including multiple scores which stopped Providence runs to make the game close.
Meanwhile, Jenkins was right behind him with 19 points off of a 7-of-12 shooting performance.
“They have two game changers in Jenkins and Hart,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “When you’ve got two of the better players on the floor, every game you’re going to have a chance to win. Those two guys played great today.”
While Providence never had the lead, it did keep the game close against the Wildcats. The Friars just showed a resilient effort throughout the game, and whenever the Wildcats looked like they were pulling away, they would storm right back into it.
Villanova only had a 35-31 lead at the break. However, The ‘Cats came out with an 8-0 run to start the second half. Once they had some separation, Friars seemed to have one last run, until the Wildcats squashed that and continued to pull away for good.
Helping to consistently swing the momentum for Villanova was sophomore wing Mikal Bridges, who finished with 15 points, four rebounds, and two steals. In one key play, Jenkins, who finished with 19 points, threw a full court pass off an inbound to Bridges, who finished with a thundering dunk over the Providence defense.
Providence was paced by Rodney Bullock‘s 17 points. Jalen Lindsey added 14 points, including a 4-of-7 performance from long range. Kyron Cartwright and Isaiah Jackson each contributed 12 points.
Phil Booth missed his 18th straight game today, and rumors continue to swirl that Booth will redshirt the season. If Booth is unable to return, the Wildcats may have problems with foul trouble and stamina come tournament time.
After this game, Villanova moves to 19-1 overall and 7-1 in the Big East. Up next for the Wildcats is a rematch with the Marquette Golden Eagles on Tuesday at the BMO Bradley Harris Center. Marquette is coming off of an upset win over Creighton at the CenturyLink Center and will look to build on that against the Wildcats.