Wildcats fall short in overtime thriller against Friars



Eugene Rapay

A game that featured last season’s Co-Big East Players of the Year did not disappoint. 

Those able to dig their cars out of Saturday’s blizzard were able to catch an intense, classic Big East showdown that ended with Providence gaining an 82-76 overtime win over No. 6 Villanova.

On one end, Providence’s Kris Dunn showed off his skill as a passer and a scorer. Dunn racked up 14 assists, dropping dimes to his teammates. He only had 11 points, but his shots came at timely moments. A three-pointer by Dunn gave the Friars a one-point lead with 1:11 left in regulation.

Meanwhile, Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono maintained his reputation as a clutch player and big shot maker. He had a team-high 19 points and three rebounds. 

After a pair of free throws extended Providence’s lead to three with 16.2 seconds in the game, Arcidiacono responded with a much-needed basket from long range to force overtime.

While the Co-Big East Players of the Year were big contributors for their respective teams, it was actually Providence’s Ben Bentil who stole the show, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

“Ben [Bentil], he’s a great player,” Dunn said. “He can do so much for the team. When he’s aggressive, I think our play rises.”

“We just got beat by a team that played better,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We have won a few games where we didn’t play our best, but we found a way to win. We didn’t play our best and a lot of it is because they did.”

The 6-9 forward’s 10 points in overtime became too much for the Wildcats to bear, but his solid play wasn’t limited to the extra time needed to finish the game.

Bentil was relentless in overtime. Once Daniel Ochefu fouled out, the sophomore forward was able to get his way. Bentil was sent to the free throw line on four separate occasions and answered the call by hitting 6-of-8 from the charity stripe. 

Each basket he made felt heavier and heavier on the Wildcats. With time running out, the game was slipping away.

“Holding Dunn to 13 points wasn’t a big deal because he had 14 assists,” Wright said. “He made great plays for his teammates.”

Arcidiacono led the way in overtime for ’Nova. The senior guard looked to attack the basket. He drew fouls in his first couple of attempts and promptly made his free throws. 

When the game was still within reach, Arcidiacono was the Wildcats main go-to guy in overtime. 

Unfortunately for Villanova, his efforts weren’t enough. 

The ‘Cats couldn’t keep up with up the Friars, who steadily pulled away. The Wildcats failed to make the necessary shots to keep the game going.

Villanova was 2-for-6 in overtime and 1-for-4 from beyond the arc. The Wildcats’ struggles from long range were not limited to just overtime.

Providence, which entered with the lowest 3-point shooting percentage in the Big East on Sunday, outdid Villanova from long range.

The Friars shot 8-of-22 (36.4 percent) from long range, while Villanova compiled a subpar 9-of-31 (29.0 percent).

“We didn’t get to the foul line a lot because we settled,” Wright said. “You’ve got to pass up some threes sometimes to get into the lane and make plays, and we didn’t do that. We took the first three every time. We’ve got to be smart enough to mix it up.” 

Bentil wasn’t the only one to do some damage to the Wildcats, Kyron Cartwright and Junior Lomomba added 13 and 12 points, respectively.

The game had been closely contested once both teams settled in. 

Jalen Brunson nailed a three pointer at the buzzer to give Villanova a 37-35 lead going into halftime.

The game was back-and-forth from then on, until Providence made the key plays to come out on top.

For Villanova, Josh Hart added 18 points and five rebounds. Kris Jenkins chipped in 11 points, five rebounds and seven assists. Brunson contributed 10 points and four assists.

The Wildcats fall to 17-3 and 7-1 in Big East play. This loss ends their 22-game Big East winning streak.

They will resume action next Sunday, January 31st, when they head over to New York to take on St. John’s.

“We’ve got to get a lot better,” Hart said. “We’ve got to get back to the basics. We can’t get complacent with where we are.”