PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Bryce Cotton scored 24 points, and Vincent Council added 15, leading Providence to a 69-66 victory over Villanova Saturday afternoon.
The game was a tale of two halves for Providence (10-8, 2-4 Big East). The Friars trailed 31-24 at halftime, but outscored Villanova (11-7, 2-3) 45-35 in the second half.
JayVaughn Pinkston paced the Wildcats from the start, scoring 10 of Villanova’s first 13 points. The Wildcats went on a 15-2 run over a 4-minute span late in the first half.
Villanova found itself in foul trouble with 14 fouls in the first half, putting the Friars in the bonus at 10:33. But Providence could not capitalize at first, making just five of its first 14 free-throw attempts and 11 of 20 in the half. Furthermore, the Wildcats finished the half with seven players with two fouls, avoiding any major foul trouble and ending the half with the lead.
The second half was a different story for Providence, which began the period with a 13-4 run, marked by seven from Cotton.
Villanova started the half with seven turnovers on its first twelve possessions, finishing the game with 25 overall. For the Friars, Kris Dunn had two steals in the first 2 minutes of the half, contributing to a team total of 12.
The Friars and Wildcats matched each other basket for basket for the final 10 minutes. Momentum gradually shifted from the Wildcats to the Friars, who never trailed in the final 5:14.
Vincent Council stepped up big for the Friars during this stretch, tallying nine of the Friars’ 11 points leading up to the five-minute mark
Cotton hit a key 3-pointer with 1:02 left that appeared to seal the deal for the Friars, putting them up 63-57.
“It was a big shot,” Cotton said. “I couldn’t hit anything, but LaDontae (Henton) set a great screen, and finally gave me enough space to knock down the shot.”
After a Dunn dunk widened the lead to 65-57, Villanova cut the lead to 67-62 with two free throws by Darrun Hilliard and a James Bell three-pointer.
A Dunn technical foul that led to two Ryan Arcidiacono free throws cut the margin to 67-64 with 26.4 seconds left.
“He’s young, he’s growing, he lost his mind and it almost cost us the basketball game, but that’s something I won’t let him forget, and it will be a learning experience for him,” said Providence coach Ed Cooley of the Dunn technical.
Villanova could not capitalize on the ensuing possession, however, and free throws by Dunn and Cotton put the game out of reach.
“If we defend, I think we have a chance to win basketball games,” Cooley said. “We missed a ton of free throws and a ton of layups, but I thought our defense carried us today.”
Providence led Villanova in offensive rebounds 19-9 and held the Wildcats to zero offensive boards in the first half. This after the Wildcats tallied just one offensive rebound in their last game against Pittsburgh.
Villanova coach Jay Wright pointed to turnovers as the main cause of the Wildcats’ loss, calling the team’s 25 giveaways “unheard of.”
Pinkston led the Wildcats with 20 points, and Hilliard added 14.
"(We) came out with more toughness in the second half,” Pinkston said. “I think we handled the pressure really well. It was just the turnovers and the little things we need to get better at.”
Providence will move on to host Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. Villanova will return home to take on Louisville on Tuesday.