Wildcats find a way to bounce back yet again



Pat Ralph

After losing in overtime at home to No. 11 Providence (18-6) in January, No. 1 Villanova (20-3) bounced back with an impressive 72-60 road win over the Friars this past Saturday. 

While the win was Villanova’s 10th in the Big East this season, this victory was another example of a common trend we have seen in the Wildcats over the past two seasons. 

Over the past two seasons, the Wildcats have achieved revenge against any Big East team that has beaten them. The last time this did not happen was in 2014, when the Wildcats dropped both games to Creighton that season. 

Rewind to last season when the Wildcats lost two games during the Big East regular season. Both were humbling road losses in the month of January to Seton Hall and Georgetown. While the defeat at Seton Hall was a nail-biting 66-61 overtime loss, the Wildcats were trounced, 78-58, by Georgetown later that month. Two very different losses, but equally as difficult. 

However, the Wildcats bounced back with impressive home victories against both teams later in the season. 

First, Villanova welcomed Georgetown to the Wells Fargo Center in early February and earned a 69-53 blowout win. A little over a week later, Villanova walloped a self-imploding Seton Hall team by a score of 80-54 at the Pavilion. The Wildcats got their revenge on their way to winning the Big East regular season and tournament titles last year. 

Now, the Wildcats have done it again. This time, Providence was the victim. What may be even more impressive about this revenge victory was that it occurred on the road. Road wins against good teams always speak louder than home victories.

So how did the Wildcats get it done this past Saturday? Two words: Darryl Reynolds. Often criticized by fans and pundits for being an underdeveloped big man as a junior, Reynolds silenced the critics last Saturday and played the game of his life against the Friars.

With starting center Daniel Ochefu out for a third straight game due to a concussion, Reynolds stepped into the starting lineup and delivered a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double performance. 

Reynolds was one of three Wildcats to post a double-double against Providence. Ironically, the other two were Reynolds’ fellow junior class members: guard Josh Hart with 14 points and 13 rebounds and forward Kris Jenkins with 10 points and 10 rebounds. 

Reynolds was a big part of the Wildcats’ 46-29 rebounding advantage over Providence, as he took advantage of an injured Ben Bentil to dominate the glass. The sophomore big man Bentil, who leads the Big East in scoring, was held to only two rebounds to go along with his 20 points in the game. 

Along with a dominant performance from Reynolds, Villanova’s defense made Big East Player of the Year front-runner Kris Dunn a non-factor the entire game. 

After posting an incredible 13-point, 14-assist stat line against the Wildcats in January, the junior guard finished with only 11 points and four assists last Saturday. 

The Wildcats’ strategy on defense was simple: force Dunn’s counterparts to make plays on offense and not to give Dunn any opportunities to take over the game. Essentially, Villanova’s goal was to cut off the head of the snake. 

The ’Cats succeeded in doing just that. With Dunn unable to control the game outright, Providence’s supporting cast failed to step up and help out. A banged-up Bentil made Dunn’s job only that much more difficult. As a result, Providence shot a less-than-stellar 33 percent from the inside the arc.

The better point guard on the floor last Saturday was senior Ryan Arcidiacono. He tallied 16 points helped the ’Cats shoot an impressive 45 percent from the field. 

All in all, this Villanova team responds well to defeat. While it may not be something we look for in the daily box score, it is an important quality for any team to have during the ever-important month of March. 

Hopefully, Saturday’s win will be one important step to the Wildcats repeating as champions of the Big East and maintaining their title as No. 1.