Trailing 60-41, with 16:25 left in the second half, Villanova finished the game on a 33-12 run, to edge the Providence Friars 74-72 at the Pavilion on Tuesday night. JayVaughn Pinkston put on a spectacular performance in the second half scoring 17 of his game high 28 points, including the last 9 points scored by the Wildcats, to keep Villanova from suffering a devastating defeat to the visiting Friars, the last place team in the Big East. Pinkston also pulled down 14 rebounds, 8 in the second half.
What made the Wildcats comeback even more noteworthy is that it was done by and large without Maalik Wayns, who tweaked his left knee and left the game for good with more then eleven minutes to go in the second half. Wayns, who is scheduled to undergo an MRI Wednesday, watched the comeback from the Villanova bench, with his knee heavily wrapped in ice.
The Friars shot the lights out in the first half led by Bryce Cotton, who hit 6 of 7 three-point shots to help Providence head into the intermission leading by 14 points, 44-30. Providence came out in the second half and expanded its lead to 60-41 as The Friars continued to outshoot Villanova. But as Providence coach Ed Cooley pointed out after the game, Villanova played with more tenacity and urgency to close out the game and came away with a win that did not look likely earlier in the game.
After trailing 60-41, Villanova eventually tied the game at 63-63. Providence scored the next 5 points to retake the lead but after an old fashioned three-point play by Pinkston, Johnson stole the ball and fed Pinkston for a break away dunk that again tied the game and brought the crowd to its feet. Villanova finally took the lead with just over 18 seconds to go on yet another Pinkston bucket. With plenty of time left for the Friars, it was a big time block by Maurice Sutton, his second of the game, that iced the win for the Wildcats.
Pinkston and teammates Dominic Cheek and Mouph Yarou paced the Wildcats down the stretch and helped break Villanova’s three game losing streak. In addition, Ty Johnson, who played most of the second half in place of Wayns, Sutton, James Bell, and Ash Yacoubou all played with great energy and toughness to help the home team edge out the visitors. Pinkston finished with a career highs in both points (28) and rebounds (14). Cheek and Yarou both scored 17 points, picking the slack for the injured Wayns. Bell had a team high 8 assists to pace the Wildcats.
Providence had four players in double figures. Bryce Cotton had 20, but only 2 in the second half. Vincent Council had 17 points and had 7 assists (he also had 7 turnovers). Gerard Coleman contributed 16 points, and LaDontae Henton chipped in 13.
Villanova outrebounded Providence 34-31. The Wildcats had 18 assists and committed 11 turnovers (only 2 in the second half). Villanova had 6 blocks compared to 3 for the Friars. Overall, Villanova shot 45% from the field, hitting 27 of 60 shots. Villanova hit 6 triples in 17 attempts, with Cheek hitting 4 of 8. Perhaps most revealing, was the Friars, who shot 60% in the first half, were held to 32.3% shooting in the second half.
With the win, Villanova improved its record to 11-13, 4-8 Big East. Providence dropped to 13-12, 2-10 Big East. Villanova next plays at South Florida on February 15th. The Friars’ next game is also against South Florida in Providence on February 11.