The win by Providence snapped a 10 game winning streak by Villanova and a 22 game regular season winning streak by Nova against Big East opponents. With the loss, Villanova drops to 7-1 in the league, while PC moves into a second place tie with Xavier, Creighton and Georgetown, at 5-2. The win was also the fourth Friar victory over a ranked opponent this season and their first over a Top 5 opponent since beating #1 Pittsburgh on February 24, 2009. It was also the program’s first win against a Top 5 opponent on the road since an upset over #4 Connecticut, back on January 24, 2004.
Over 16,000 tickets had been sold for this match-up between two nationally teams, but the weekend’s heavy snowstorm in the mid-Atlantic kept many fans home and the Wachovia Center flashed many empty seats. Both teams came out as cold as the weather as well before Ryan Arcidiacono broke the ice by hitting a short jumper three minutes in. PC fell behind quickly and trailed 15-9 and 23-13 after two Jalen Brunson free throws.
A Phil Booth layup on a back door cut pushed Nova’s lead to 29-18 with 5 minutes to play before the Friars began to find the range. Over the next 3 minutes, Ben Bentil began to overpower Nova inside and Junior Lomomba and Kris Dunn canned three-pointers that pulled Providence to within 32-28. With Dunn assisting on almost every Friar field goal and PC’s zone giving the Wildcats fits, Ryan Fazekas put PC on top with a corner three, 35-34, with 25 seconds to play. Nova ran the clock down and freshman Brunson nailed a dead-on three from the top of the key at the buzzer for a 37-35 Villanova halftime lead. Still, PC had closed the half on a 17-8 run, fueled by Bentil and Lomomba’s offense and Dunn’s playmaking.
The second half would prove to be a grind, with neither team able to escape the other. Kyron Cartwright scored 5 quick points to keep PC even, and the Friars led at the first media timeout, 44-42 on a Bentil dunk off a nifty Lomomba feed and jumper. Josh Hart and Arcidiacono layups put Nova up, 47-44, as PC got sloppy with the ball. Two Cartwright speed drives for layups, two Lomomba free throws and a Dunn drive for a layup and foul had the Friars up, 52-47, but when Dunn missed the free throw, momentum suddenly shifted back to the Cats.
Kris Jenkins nailed a three, Brunson hit two free throws and Daniel Ochefu dunked off a Dunn turnover and PC was down again, 54-52. Bentil rebounded his own miss for a layup and his three out of a media timeout had PC up, 57-56. After a Rodney Bullock layup, Arcidiacono buried a three for a 61-59 lead and a Dunn steal led to another Bullock layup and a tie game with 2:06 to play. Arcidiacono rebounded a Mikal Bridges’ three point miss and hit a foul line jumper and Dunn answered with a huge straight-on three for a 64-63 Friar lead with just 1:13 left.
Jenkins missed a three and Cartwright followed with a miss but Lomomba rebounded and Cartwright was fouled by Ochefu. With 16 seconds left, Cartwright calmly sank both free throws and the smell of an upset was in the air. Providence pressured the three point line, but with Bullock in his face, Arcidiacano reared up and knocked down a monster three with 7 seconds left to knot the score at 66-all and when Dunn missed a last second three, it was on to overtime.
Villanova jumped out to a quick 69-66 lead on a Jenkins’ three, but that was to be their only lead in the overtime period. Bentil rebounded his own miss again for a layup and then a Bentil steal led to a Lomomba layup off a pretty Dunn feed for a 70-69 Friar lead. A Dunn steal and Hart foul put Bentil on the line, where he knocked down both free throws. Arcidiacono was fouled on a drive to the basket bay Dunn and made both freebies and when Ochefu blocked Lomomba’s attempt, Cartwright grabbed the ball and Dunn drove the right lane for a banked layup and a 74-71 lead with 41 seconds left.
Arcidiacono drove to the basket again and was fouled again by Dunn as the ball barely bounced away. This time, he made one of two and a Bentil layup made it 76-72 lead with 16 ticks left. On a questionable call by the officials, Dunn fouled out as Arcidiacono picked up the inbounds pass and drove into Dunn. He made both and Bentil was quickly fouled and also made both for a 78-74 lead with 14 seconds to go. When Arcidiacono missed a layup attempt, Bentil grabbed the rebound and Ochefu fouled out. Bentil hit one of two and after a Hart layup with 4 seconds left to cut the lead to 3, Bentil made one of two to put the game away for Providence.
In the match-up between Ben Bentil and Daniel Ochefu, Bentil emerged as the clear winner. Ochefu didn’t start due to an off the court infraction, but Bentil scored 31 points, on 11-18 shooting and hauled down 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, Ochefu was held in check, scoring 7 points with 11 boards, many of which were balls batted out to the perimeter to keep Nova possessions alive. Dunn filled the stat sheet, with 13 points, 14 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 6 turnovers. He hit 3-4 from three, struggled with turnovers early but came on strong down the stretch.
The Friars also received outstanding contributions from Junior Lomomba with 12 points (2-3 threes) and Kyron Cartwright with 13 points and 3 assists. Villanova’s Arcidiacono played brilliantly, with 19 points and only 2 turnovers, and Hart played well, hitting foul line jumpers on his way to 18 points and 4 boards. As a team, PC outrebounded Nova, 38-34, including 14-11 on the offensive glass, and assisted on 21 of 30 field goals.
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PC now faces a quick turnaround with an 8:30 p.m. game at the Dunk on Tuesday against 5th ranked Xavier.