No. 11 Providence handed No. 3 Villanova its lone loss of the Big East season back on Jan. 24, an 82-76 decision in overtime at The Pavilion.
The Wildcats have now repaid the favor in kind.
Villanova continued its reign atop the Big East with an easy 72-60 win that saw it lead for all but the first 23 seconds of the contest. The Wildcats started the game on a 10-0 run in the first two minutes of the game and never looked back, stretching it out to 19 later in the first half and largely sitting around the 15-point mark until a late run from the Friars saw them push it to within six points with five minutes left.
Ultimately though, that run wasn’t quite enough as the Wildcats’ Ryan Aricidiacono knocked down a 3 with about two minutes remaining to push it out to nine, then free throws brought it to its final margin.
This was a battle of injured big men, as Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu had to sit out the game with a concussion and Providence’s Ben Bentil didn’t start due to an ankle injury. Bentil did end up scoring 20 points in the defeat, but he clearly was not himself on defensive end or on the glass. The biggest place that showed up was in the performance of little-used Nova big Darryl Reynolds, who put up a career-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double. It’s the second-straight game that he’s grabbed double-digit rebounds, but the first time he’s ever reached double-figures in scoring.
For the Wildcats, this was one of the two big ones remaining on their march toward a Big East crown. The next one comes on Feb. 24 when they go to Xavier and take on the second-place Musketeers. It wouldn’t be crazy to see Butler pick them off before that, but the Xavier game is the one Nova will most be looking forward to.
On the other side, this one caps off a rough week for the Friars. Providence will likely drop quite a bit in the polls after taking on losses to both DePaul and Villanova. That drops them to 6-5 in the league, and the run doesn’t get any easier. They go to Marquette on the road this week, followed by a home game against a desperate Georgetown team and two road games against Xavier and Seton Hall. Providence needs to get Bentil healthy and get rolling again.
Otherwise, the Friars might be moving in the opposite direction of Nova as we get into the second half of conference season.