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Defense Lifts Villanova to 68–50 Victory Over Providence

Graydon Paul
Graduate guard Hakim Hart dunks late in the second half to give Villanova a 22-point lead over Providence. Hart finished the night with nine points, contributing to Villanova’s 28–0 advantage in bench points.

Pressured by a five-game losing streak, Villanova went into Sunday night’s matchup against Providence (14–8, 5–6 Big East) knowing that it was a “must-win” game. 

The Wildcats more than fulfilled this mission, defeating the Friars by 18 points.

With the win, Villanova improved to 12–10 and 5–6 in the Big East after the 68–50 victory at Wells Fargo Center. 

The game was highlighted by a suffocating defensive performance from the ‘Cats. They forced nine turnovers and limited the Friars to just 16 percent shooting in the first half.

“I thought they did an unbelievable job,” head coach Kyle Neptune said. “We got a lot of stops. We were diving all over the floor. We were battling for rebounds. It sounds simple, but we got it done on [the defensive] end.”

Both offenses were stymied in an abnormally low-scoring first half.

After nearly three scoreless opening minutes passed, a layup from senior guard TJ Bamba put Villanova on board.

A wave of substitutions made by Neptune less than eight minutes into the first half gave the Wildcats a much-needed energy boost.

Senior forward Lance Ware came off the bench and immediately made an impact. As the Wildcats trailed just 5–4, a timely block from Ware changed the trajectory of the half.

“That was an exciting play,” Bamba said. “We feed off of that. [Ware] inspired us.”

On a subsequent 8–0 run, Bamba and graduate guard Hakim Hart sank a pair of three-pointers to put Villanova in the lead 11–6. The sudden burst forced Providence to call an early timeout.

However, as the first half continued, both teams were still shooting under 30 percent and struggling to find lasting offensive momentum.

The Providence defense repeatedly closed in on senior forward and offensive leader Eric Dixon, limiting him to just two points in the first half which forced the Wildcats to make a change. 

“Eric Dixon does so many things for us,” Neptune said. “When he comes out, Lance [Ware] really complements him. The way he can guard multiple positions, rebound the ball and then really get the ball moving offensively. He’s a great finisher at the rim.”

The first twenty minutes ended with Villanova ahead 26–16.

The Wildcats opened the second half with a 13–0 scoring run. The surge included a pair of threes from graduate forward Tyler Burton and a Dixon layup. A dunk from Ware and three from sophomore guard Brendan Hausen extended the deficit past 10.

Meanwhile, the Friars missed five shot attempts in a nearly five-minute scoring drought.

The Wildcats reached their largest lead of the game midway through the second half when a Dixon three put them ahead 50–24. Ten of Dixon’s 12 points on the night came in the last twenty minutes of play.

A balanced scoring attack lifted the ‘Cats further throughout the second half as significant contributions came from Neptune’s bench. Hausen added 11 points and Hart finished with nine. Ware tied starter sophomore guard Mark Armstrong for a game-high six rebounds.

“I think the strength of our team is how deep we are,” Neptune said. “Any guy that we put in the game, we have the utmost confidence that they can help our team.”

The Friars made a slight comeback in the game’s final minutes, coming within 12 points, but were held back by a triumphant Wildcat defense as time ran out.

Past the halfway point in Big East play, the Wildcats will next travel to Cincinnati, Ohio on Wednesday for a matchup with Xavier (12–10, 6–5 Big East). It will be the ‘Cats second meeting with the Musketeers after scraping a 66–65 win on Jan. 4. 

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on FS1 and the Villanova Sports Radio Network.

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About the Contributors
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis, Co-Sports Editor
Katie Lewis is a sophomore from Miami, FL in her first year as Co-Sports Editor in 2024. From covering games to writing features and profiles, she loves to find the story behind Villanova sports. Pursuing her enthusiasm for writing and journalism in her studies at Villanova, Katie is double-majoring in English and Communication with concentrations in Journalism and Writing & Rhetoric. When Katie isn’t at Holy Grounds working on her next article, she enjoys playing tennis with Villanova’s club team.
Graydon Paul
Graydon Paul, Photography Editor
Graydon Paul is a junior Computer Engineering Major in her second year as Photography Editor. As the editor, she edits photos for every issue, making sure they highlight and fit the context of each article. Apart from The Villanovan, Graydon is a huge sports fan, loves to read, collect records, and do anything outside with her two labs, Scotch and Özil. However, that sports fandom has drawn the ire of several Villanovan editors, as Graydon is a devoted supporter of her hometown Dallas Cowboys.
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