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Villanova Holds On 63-61 Over Providence In Classic At Big East Tournament

The Wildcats were led by Daniel Ochefu, who had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports


In a game that felt like an old school Big East tournament match-up from the 1980’s, Villanova was able to hold on and defeat Providence 63-61 to advance to the Big East Tournament championship game on Saturday night. The Wildcats won despite being outrebounded by 12 and shooting only 7-of-23 from three point range for the game.

The Wildcats were led by Daniel Ochefu, who had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Josh Hart who finished with 18 points after his 20 point outburst on Thursday.

“Just a great college basketball game,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright. “Just a thrill to be in here at the Garden, semifinals, Big East, Friday night. It’s what you dream of, man. It was an awesome game.”

The pace was frantic in the opening minutes as both teams tried their best to land a knockout blow early but the teams counterpunched their way through the first five minutes. After that initial flurry, both Villanova and Providence defenses slowed the pace of the game down as both teams were having trouble finding any touch in the first after that quick first minutes.

The Friars ran into shooting issues in the middle stages of the first half shooting only 17 percent as the Wildcats jumped out to a 13-5 lead. While the Friars were struggling, Hart and Darrun Hilliard both scored 10 first half points giving Villanova a 33-28 lead at the half. For all the shooting troubles Providence (22-11) experienced, Co-Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn helped keep the Friars afloat as he finished with 11 points but on 4-of-10 shooting.

The second half saw Villanova (31-2) start strong to push their halftime lead to double digits only to see Dunn and Providence bring the deficit back under 10 at the midway point of the second half. The lead continued to shrink to as little as three for Providence but Villanova was able to answer and push the lead back up. Frustration began to kick in for Providence supporters as every loose ball and offensive rebound went in the Wildcats direction.

With 2:00 remaining, Villanova held a 59-54 lead after a Hart three pointer extended their lead. After two LaDontae Henton free throws cut the lead to three, another ‘Nova score pushed the lead back to 61-56. Providence then scored four consecutive baskets, highlighted by a game-tying lay-up from Dunn after Ben Bentil stole the Villanova inbounds pass.

With the score tied at 61 with 12.4 seconds left, Villanova put the ball in the hands of the other Big East Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono. Arcidiacono drove to the basket and drew a questionable foul on Bentil with 3.1 seconds remaining. He hit both free throws and a last chance heave from Providence did not fall giving Villanova a berth in the championship game Saturday night against the winner of the Georgetown/Xavier match-up.

“The last play of the game was a 50-50 call. I think we have the best officials in the country,” said Providence coach Ed Cooley. “I think the Big East has always had the best officials in the country. It doesn’t come down to one play. It was a 50-50 call. It can go either way. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Providence was led by Dunn who scored 22 points and added nine assists and seven rebounds. Bentil added a double-double of his own (12 points, 10 rebounds) for the Friars who are projected to make the NCAA Tournament as a #6 seed according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow writer Jason Cordner.
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