Villanova vs. Providence: 3 keys to the Big East title game

by Leon Thompson March 12, 2018, 3:31
Villanova vs. Providence: 3 keys to the Big East title game

New York, N.Y. - The Providence College men's basketball team fell to top-seeded and No. 2/3 ranked Villanova, 76-66, in overtime in the BIG East Tournament Championship game on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Providence battled back from a 10-point deficit with 11 minutes left, but Villanova's talent advantage took hold in overtime.

For the third-straight day at the BIG EAST Tournament, Providence went into overtime, tied this time, with Villanova at 60. Villanova's Mikal Bridges led all scorers with 19 points, but Providence's defense held Villanova to 3/20 shooting from 3-point range.

Four players are averaging at least 9.1 points per game for Providence, they are Rodney Bullock (14.1), Alpha Diallo (12.3), Kyron Cartwright (11.4) and Jalen Lindsey (9.1).

PC is expected to make the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year on Sunday, which will be a program record. The Wildcats were nursing a 65-64 lead when Brunson lost the ball with the shot clock winding down.

Villanova started the game 6-of-7 from the field and got an offensive rebound and scored on the only shot it missed. He knocked down a corner 3, converted a traditional three point play, and finished on a hard layup in the first two and a half minutes of the second half. Brunson seems boring in comparison until a glance at Saturday's box score reveals he had 31 points in a championship game so high energy that Providence Coach Ed Cooley split his trousers. It also is the first time in Friar history that the squad has played three straight overtime games. Brunson hit a jumper with 1:17 to play, and Providence didn't score another point.

Heart, hustle and plenty of pluck can only take you so far in a rough and tumble conference like the Big East.

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In fact, the 3-pointer turned the tide as the Friars drained 5-of-6 over the first 12 minutes of the period while VU was just 1-of-5.

Offensive Rebounds Killed the Friars: It's ironic that Cartwright drew comparisons to Bryce Cotton after the Xavier win. They will run into another game in which the bodies are colliding and the action is relentless and the pressure that rides on every shot grows as the minutes disappear.

Villanova: The Wildcats beat the Friars 89-69 on January 23 and lost at Providence 76-71 on February 14. Slowing down Villanova this time figured to be more hard, however. It was the third overtime game for the Friars in as many nights.

What it means: Providence was squarely on the bubble heading into the Big East Tournament and left having not only locked down an NCAA Tournament bid, but making a statement to both the rest of the country and its own fan base. Cartwright's short jumper bounced off the iron and with that overtime beckoned.

Who We Like: Villanova has been an over-covering machine for bettors lately. "A lot of credit goes to them for coming out with the level of intensity that they did, and they obviously hit a lot of shots".

The Wildcats started the second half the same way they did the first, expanding their lead to 12 points behind eight early points from Brunson.

Once again, Providence responded to Villanova's run with one of its own. Villanova's Mikal Bridges was named the Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

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