Providence’s Kris Dunn singlehandedly silenced the raucous Villanova fans that had plenty to cheer for throughout the game.
Down 61-57 with 25 seconds left in the game, he scored four of his 22 points in a matter of seconds to tie the game for the first time since opening tip-off.
“He’s big time,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “He’s the toughest guy we’ve ever guarded on pick-and-rolls.”
The Wildcats held onto a narrow lead for most of the game. They watched their lead evaporate right before their eyes, thanks to Providence’s Big East Co-Player of the Year. Through it all, they never faltered, going on to win 63-61.
“It wasn’t tough at all,” Josh Hart said. “We just moved onto the next play and played Villanova Basketball.”
Villanova called for a time out to draw up one last play. With the shot clock turned off, it was up to the Wildcats to finish the game in regulation or miss and take it to overtime.
The Wildcats looked to their junior captain, Ryan Arcidiacono, who has a reputation for being a clutch player. At this point in the game, he had a meager four points. It would be his next two points that made all the difference.
He calmly took the ball down the court before making his move. Arcidiacono drove to the right and went up for a layup. A few Providence defenders came to try and block Arcidiacono’s shot, but ended up fouling him instead.
Providence fans erupted in rage over the call. Ryan Arcidiacono went to the line and blocked out the noise, sinking two go-ahead free throws.
“The last play of the game was a 50-50 call,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “It doesn’t come down to one play. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”
LaDontae Henton released one last heave in hopes for a win. The ball bounced off the backboard and harmlessly onto the court.
Nova Nation had plenty to cheer for once again, as the Wildcats will be moving on to tomorrow night’s Big East championship game. The win wasn’t the prettiest, but it was all Villanova needed to advance to its first Big East final since winning it in 1995.
“They lifted of our guys,” Coach Wright said. “They made us do things we don’t normally do.”
Villanova didn’t have the same sweet touch from long range, shooting 7-of-23 (30.4%) from three-point range. Villanova had ten turnovers, some of which were the result of uncharacteristic sloppy passing and mental mistakes.
“A couple of guys weren’t in sync tonight, don’t know why,” Coach Wright said. “We kept our composure and found a way to pull it out. That’s what it takes, you’ve got to have guts.”
On the other hand, there were a number of great performances that emerged in tonight’s game. Daniel Ochefu finished with a double-double. The junior center had 15 points and 13 rebounds. On the defensive end of the court, he laid down five powerful blocks.
Ochefu was the primary source of much-needed rebounds, as the Wildcats were bullied on the boards. Providence held a big 42-30 advantage in rebounding.
Hart had another nice game off the bench, leading the team with 18 points. He was an efficient 7-of-10 on the floor and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. He made his presence felt on all aspects of the game, as he also collected a few rebounds, assists, and steals.
Darrun Hilliard supplied 12 points and five rebounds, before fouling out near the end of the game.
Villanova will play the winner of tonight’s Georgetown-Xavier game. Tip-off will be tomorrow night at 8 p.m. It will be Coach Wright’s first Big East Tournament final as a Villanova coach.
“I’m thrilled, I love this tournament more than any other tournament,” Coach Wright said. “Love being in New York, love playing at the Garden.”