Providence visits Villanova in clash of Big East rivals

Villanova, PA ( - Up three games with four to play, the sixth-ranked Villanova Wildcats return home for Tuesday's night's Big East Conference clash with the 25th-ranked Providence Friars.

Providence enters the fray with a record of 19-8, 9-5 in conference which has it tied with Butler for third place in the standings. The Friars are enjoying a modest two-game win streak at the moment, having taken out the likes of Seton Hall (69-62) and DePaul (84-57) in the last week and change. The rout of the Blue Demons took place on the road, where PC is 4-5 this season.

Villanova is in the midst of one of the finest seasons in program history, the team logging a 25-2 mark, which includes a 12-2 league ledger. The Wildcats have won their last eight games, with the most recent occurring this past Saturday at Marquette, 87-76. VU has met all challenges from visitors this season, logging a 15-0 home record.

These two teams met in Providence on Feb. 11, with Villanova earning a 74-68 win. As a result, the Wildcats' lead in the all-time series increased to 55-37.

In the bout just a few weeks ago, Ryan Arcidiacono paced the Wildcats with 20 points while Daniel Ochefu added 19 points and nine rebounds. LaDontae Henton led all scorers with 23 points for the Friars.

Henton and Kris Dunn both hit for more than 20 points in leading Providence to its rout of DePaul last Wednesday, and the team shot a rock-solid 52.8 percent from the field, despite missing all but one of its nine 3-point attempts. Henton, the Big East's leading scorer at 20.6 ppg, tallied 22 points by going 7-of-14 from the floor, while Dunn added 21 points by knocking down 5-of-7 field goal tries and converting 11-of-12 free throws. Ben Bentil chipped in a dozen points for the Friars, who logged a 27-16 edge in points at the charity stripe and turned 16 DePaul turnovers into 24 points. PC also dominated the interior, outscoring the Blue Demons in the paint, 46-12.

In addition to the outstanding offensive showing from Henton this season, Dunn (15.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Tyler Harris (10.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) are both averaging double figures as well for a team that puts up 70.4 ppg, even though it shoots a dismal 30.9 percent from beyond the arc, worst in the Big East. Defensively, the Friars permit 64.9 ppg, but overall they are a middle-of-the-pack team in most statistical categories. They do a decent job of goading the opposition into mistakes, forcing an average of 13.2 turnovers per contest.

Effective shooting in every area helped propel Villanova to victory at Marquette over the weekend, as the visitors drained 11-of-21 3-point attempts, 47.1 percent of their total shots, and converted 28-of-36 free throws. Darrun Hilliard led the Wildcats with 17 points, while Arcidiacono tacked on 16, Dylan Ennis and JayVaughn Pinkston 14 each, and Phil Booth a dozen in 16 minutes of action off the bench. A 39-27 advantage on the glass certainly helped Villanova as well. Hilliard, Arcidiacono and Ennis each had three 3- pointers in the game.

Villanova continues to excel at both ends of the court, lighting up the scoreboard for 75.1 ppg to rank less than a point behind league-leading Xavier (75.7 ppg), while permitting only 60.8 ppg, which ranks it No. 1. The Wildcats are the top 3-point shooting (.381) team in the conference, and they too do a terrific job of forcing miscues, leading the league with a +3.22 turnover margin. Hilliard averages a team-best 14.4 ppg, Arcidiacono nets 10.2 ppg, and four others generate between 9.0 and 9.9 ppg. Ochefu, who sits at the low end of that range, spearheads the Wildcats' rebounding effort by grabbing 8.3 rpg.