Providence, RI (SportsNetwork.com) - Having inched up the AP Poll this week to No. 6, the Villanova Wildcats continue their assault on foes from the Big East Conference as they challenge the Providence Friars on Wednesday night.
Villanova has won four in a row and recently exacted some revenge for one of its two losses this season, as it topped visiting Georgetown last Saturday, 69-53. The Hoyas had beaten the Wildcats in Washington, D.C. a few weeks earlier (78-58). As a result, VU now sits at 21-2 overall, and its 8-2 league ledger has it in first place in the Big East.
At 17-7 on the season and 7-4 in conference, Providence is nipping at the Wildcats' heels. The Friars are fresh off a 78-69 loss at Xavier, and they've lost two of their last three after winning their previous three. PC is hoping for a return to grace this evening, as it has won 11 of its 13 home games this season.
Villanova owns a 54-37 advantage in the all-time series with Providence, and the Wildcats won both meetings last season. Since Jay Wright took over at Villanova in 2001-02, VU is 5-5 versus the Friars at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Villanova took control early in its rematch with Georgetown, and won the game rather easily despite committing a season-high 20 turnovers. The Wildcats, who got 15 points from Darrun Hilliard, 13 from Josh Hart and 10 from JayVaughn Pinkston, knocked down 12-of-24 3-point attempts, while Georgetown was horrid from distance, going just 1-of-17. The Hoyas finished with an overall field goal percentage of .300, and they were guilty of 15 miscues off which the Wildcats scored 24 points. Conversely, GU tallied only eight points off all of VU's giveaways.
Hilliard is averaging 13.3 ppg as one of three double-digit scorers for a Villanova squad that puts up 74.8 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .461 overall and .363 from beyond the arc. The team's defensive effort has been top-notch as well, with foes generating just 59.9 ppg in hitting a mere 40.1 percent of their total shots, which includes a 29.2 percent performance out on the perimeter. The 'Cats have also done a real nice job disrupting the flow of the opposition's offensive attack, as they force an average of 15.1 turnovers per outing.
With 24 points and nine rebounds, LaDontae Henton put forth an impressive effort in the Friars' recent clash with Xavier, but the team as a whole dropped the ball at the defensive end as the Musketeers nailed 53.7 percent of their field goal attempts in posting the nine-point win. Ben Bentil added 16 points and six boards for Providence, which also got 11 points, six rebounds and eight assists from Kris Dunn. Unfortunately, Dunn was also guilty of six of the team's 14 turnovers.
Henton's scoring average of 20.4 ppg has him ranked first in the Big East and 11th in the country this week, and he is joined in double figures by fellow Friar Dunn (15.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg). Tyler Harris (9.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg) is close to joining them, and the team is averaging an even 70 ppg despite converting only 30.9 percent of its long-range launches. They may not be huge differentials, but favorable margins in both rebounding (+3.4) and turnovers (+1.0) has helped Providence achieve the level of success it has thus far.