Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Villanova prevails over Providence in double-overtime

Providence guard Bryce Cotton passes the ball under defensive pressure from Villanova guards Darrun Hilliard II and Tony Chennault during the first half. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Providence guard Bryce Cotton passes the ball under defensive pressure from Villanova guards Darrun Hilliard II and Tony Chennault during the first half. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Providence guard Bryce Cotton passes the ball under defensive pressure from Villanova guards Darrun Hilliard II and Tony Chennault during the first half. (Elise Amendola/AP) Gallery: No. 9 Villanova 82, Providence 79 (2OT)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - You never want to have a losing streak. Especially at this stage of the journey. Particularly when you haven't had one all season.

On Sunday, Villanova got drilled by Creighton for the second time in 4 weeks. After dropping three spots in the Associated Press poll to No. 9, the Wildcats flew back halfway across the country to play their third straight road game, at a place where they've had their issues, against a team trying to make a statement for the NCAA Selection Committee.

When the schedule came out, a lot of folks figured this would be a demanding stretch. Now we know why. If the Wildcats had lost this one, it would have stung even more.

Last night at the Dunkin Donuts Center, they did what good teams must do. They somehow found a way to respond and get it done. It took them two overtimes, the first time they've been stretched to double overtime since 2001, but it counts just the same.

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  • "I still haven't gotten over Creighton," Villanova coach Jay Wright said, after an 82-79 victory that nearly went to a third OT. "I will. I'm not great at that resiliency stuff. It eats at me, the past game. But these guys are [good about it]."

    Those guys had a chance to win at the end of regulation, after leading almost the entire second half. But Ryan Arcidiacono couldn't hit a three-pointer with a hand in his face. Never came close, really. And he even left enough time on the clock for Providence actually to get a good look at the other end.

    The 'Cats again had the last shot in the first OT, but once more couldn't convert. This time, Arcidiacono drove to the basket but couldn't get the layup to go in. Neither could Daniel Ochefu, on the tip.

    But given another opportunity, "Arch" came up big. After Bryce Cotton had tied it on a three off an offensive rebound, Arcidiacono again drove down the left side of the lane on Providence big man Kadeem Batts, banked it in and drew Batts' fifth foul with 3.6 seconds to go. He then added the foul shot. Tyler Harris, who'd tied the game for Providence at the end of regulation with a trey, got an open look from the left corner off a feed from Cotton, but the shot was short all the way.

    Nothing to it. The Wildcats led by five with 1:08 to go in regulation, by two with a minute to go in the first extra 5-minute period and by three with 45 seconds to go in the last one.

    Villanova is now 23-3, 11-2 in the Big East. Providence fell to 17-10, 7-7. The Wildcats still haven't lost a game by fewer than 16 points. And they're 4-0 in OT, including three on the road.

    "This team wasn't going to let one game define us," said Arcidiacono, who led the Wildcats with 21 points, to go with six assists and three steals against one turnover. "We just moved on from it. We wanted to respond. And we had to, so many times tonight.

    "Every day in practice, the first five goes against the Blue team . . . in the toughest situations. And you know we don't get any calls, even if we get hacked. No one panicked out there. We stuck together. We know if we do what we can do, we're going to come out on top. I just took my time [on the last score]. I got to the lane in the first overtime. I thought I could do it again. I kind of used my body to jump into him. And luckily . . . "

    Arch had four of Villanova's nine treys. JayVaughn Pinkston added 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting. James Bell finished with 17 and a team-best nine rebounds in a team-high 47 minutes.

    Cotton, the second-leading scorer in the conference, had 22. But the Wildcats made him earn it, as he did most of his damage at the foul line. He did have nine assists and seven boards but shot 6-for-20. Batts scored 21, but missed at least a few inside that could have made a difference. Josh Fortune, who hurt Villanova last season, had 16 on four triples but didn't do much late.

    Meanwhile, the benches combined for two points.

    The Friars were trying to beat a Top 10 opponent for the first time in 37 months. The last time they did it, they knocked off No. 8 Villanova. They'd lost to the Wildcats by 30 in early January. And they'd lost four of their previous six. But they'd lost only twice at home. And one of their victims had been Creighton a month ago, by double digits.

    On Saturday, the Wildcats will play in Philly for the first time in 2 weeks when they host St. John's (17-9, 7-6), which had won five straight going into last night's game against Butler. 'Nova beat the Red Storm by seven on Jan. 11 at Madison Square Garden, but the Johnnies have won their only two previous trips to the Wells Fargo Center, in 2003 and 2011.

    The Wildcats close out the regular season with four of five at home. One of those - Butler next Wednesday - is at the Pavilion. Their lone remaining road game is at Xavier (17-8, 7-5) on March 6. They beat the Musketeers by 23 this month on the Main Line.

    "This is what Big East basketball is all about, man," Wright said. "Usually, we come in here and get our butts kicked. That's our third road game in 6 days. But after the Creighton game, I thought they'd be ready to go. Then to be up and down in this game and keep coming back . . . "

    So what was going through his mind when Harris was lining up another tying trey at the end?

    "I never think they're going in," he smiled. "I'm a positive guy."

    Hey, you can replay the last one, no matter how brutal, only so long.

    MIKE KERN Daily News Staff Writer kernm@phillynews.com
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