Gillespie Records Career High in 89-84 Statement Win Over Providence


Courtesy of Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Collin Gillespie scored a career high 33 points to lead the Wildcats.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

No. 10 Villanova defeated No. 8 Providence, 89-84, on Tuesday night behind a career-high 33 points from graduate guard Collin Gillespie, bringing the ‘Cats within one game of the league-leading Friars. Junior guard Justin Moore and senior forward Brandon Slater also assisted in the high scoring effort, putting up 19 and 13 respectively. The ‘Cats handed the Friars their first home loss of the season, as well as scoring the highest point total allowed by the Friars all year. 

Gillespie and Moore combined for 52 points, despite both nursing ankle injuries that have limited their activity throughout the week. 

“[Justin and Collin] are hurt,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said postgame. “They’re not practicing, their ankles are swollen.”

The game started as a back and forth battle with Moore leading the offense, scoring 13 of the team’s first 18 points. The ‘Cats were hot from three, shooting 7-14 in the first half. The Wildcats led through much of the first half, but were unable to make a sizable gap between themselves and the Friars. The Friars eventually were able to claim the lead with 4:30 left in the half, but the ‘Cats closed the half on a 9-3 run to take a 46-39 lead into the break.

“I thought it was going to be tough to stop them. I never worry about us, I don’t think [about] if we’re going to be tough to stop,” Wright said. “I thought we were going to have to score. I don’t know if I thought it would be 89-84 to be honest, but there were a lot of shot makers in that game. A lot of guys made a lot of tough shots.”

The top-ten matchup continued to be tight in the second half, with Gillespie finding his offensive rhythm. After scoring 10 in the first half, Gillespie exploded for the remainder of the game, scoring 23 points in the second. Key to Gillespie’s big night was his shooting from beyond the arc, sinking 5-of-8 of his three point attempts. Gillespie was also a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe. 

“I was just taking what they gave and what was open,” Gillespie said of his career-high night. “My teammates did a really good job of finding me in spots and Eric [Dixon] did a great job of screening and getting me open.”

Despite Gillespie’s offensive outbreak, the Friars were able to keep the game close, largely behind the efforts of graduate guard Al Durham and graduate center Nate Watson, who combined for 24 of the Friars’ 43 second-half points. Durham played a significant portion of the second half with four fouls, but Providence wasn’t the only squad affected by foul trouble. Graduate forward Jermaine Samuels sat out a large portion of the second period after racking up his fourth foul with 14:13 to play. 

The two squads continued to battle, with the ‘Cats maintaining a slight lead for most of the second half. Gillespie would then sink two major threes, one to give the ‘Cats a five-point lead with three minutes to go, and another with just under thirty seconds to play to extend the lead to five again. Gillespie’s sharpshooting, both from the free-throw line and beyond the arc, would give the Wildcats just what they needed to close out the heavyweight fight, winning 89-84. 

“We’ve been through that situation so many times, Justin’s been in the situation and been able to take the shot,” Gillespie said of his late-game three. “I was really just going to read it, make the right play, and they both ended up going with Jermaine, and I had the open shot so I had to take it.”

The ‘Cats are in action next when they host Georgetown on February 19 at 5 P.M. The Hoyas remain without a win in conference play, though they looked dangerous for a small amount of time in the team’s earlier matchup with the Wildcats in the nation’s capital. 

The more important game on the ‘Cats horizon is the rematch with Providence that, providing neither team falters against other conference opponents, will serve as a de facto Big East regular-season title match, as the Wildcats (20-6, 13-3) sit just one game behind the Friars (21-3, 11-2) in conference play. The ‘Cats will have home-court advantage in that matchup, set for Mar. 1 at 5:30 P.M.