The 6h ranked Villanova Wildcats (26- 2, 13-2 Big East) clinched a share of the regular season title in the Big East Conference by routing the 25th ranked Providence Friars (19-9, 9-6 Big East) 89-61 on Senior Night (Tuesday night, February 24) at the Pavilion. Seniors Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston, who were honored before the game for their contributions to the basketball program, went out in style in their last game at the Pavilion, leading the Wildcats to a dominating win. Hilliard scored a game-high 24 points. Pinkston added 16 points and grabbed (a game high) 8 rebounds.
Villanova led from start to finish, grabbing a 9-0 lead to set the tone in the early minutes of the first half. Villanova expanded its lead to 16-4 on the first of Hilliard’s three-point bombs of the evening. Later in the half, Villanova’s margin grew to 28-13 after consecutive three-pointers by Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart. With 2:17 left in the half, Villanova’s lead stood at 34-18, following two free throws by Phil Booth. The Friars closed the first-half on a 7-0 run to make the score 34-25 at the intermission.
At the start of the second-half, Providence cut Villanova’s margin to 6, 34-28, on a trey by LaDontae Henton. The Wildcats shortly thereafter went on a 16-4 run highlighted by four three-pointers by Hilliard to push the lead to 54-36 with 13 minutes remaining in the game. Villanova expanded the lead to 30 points (79-49) on a three-pointer by Kris Jenkins. Hilliard, first, and then Pinkston, exited the game to enthusiastic applause from the delighted Nova Nation crowd to cap a great Senior Night.
Villanova had five players in double figures. In addition to Hilliard and Pinkston, Arcidiacono tossed in 13 points, Jenkins contributed 11 and Booth (who was a perfect 3-3 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line) had 10. Josh Hart just missed double figures with 9 points. Daniel Ochefu had 6 points to go with 8 rebounds. Dylan Ennis paced the Wildcats with 5 assists and stifling defense on Providence’s outstanding guard, Kris Dunn. Dunn was held to 4 points on 2 of 10 shooting. Villanova out-rebounded the Friars 33-30. The Wildcats had 15 assists on 25 baskets, and committed 10 turnovers. Villanova hit 25-47 shots from the field (53.2%), including 13 of 25 from long-range (52%). Pinkston became the 11th Wildcat to score 1500+ points and grab 700+ rebounds in a career.
For Providence, Tyler Harris was the leading scorer with 18 points on 8-11 shooting. Henton and Kyron Cartwright also scored in double figures for the visitors. The Friars had 14 assists and were forced into 15 turnovers by Villanova’s tenacious defense.
Villanova, who has now won nine games in a row, returns to action on Saturday, February 28, when it travels to play Xavier at 2PM the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. If the Wildcats win, they will secure the Big East title outright. The game will be televised on Fox. Providence next plays on March 1, when it hosts Marquette. Villanova will play its final home game when it hosts St. John’s on March 7th at the Wells Fargo Center.
[Photo credit: D. Jacob Miller Photography]
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