No. 9 Villanova basketball narrowly slips by Providence

villanova basketball

(Photo Credit: Josh Einbinder-Schatz)

Villanova basketball (23-3, 11-2) picked up their 23rd win of the season with a 82-79 double OT victory over the Providence Friars.

Following Sunday’s 101-80 beat-down to the Creighton Blue Jays, Villanova looked to Tuesday’s game at Providence(17-10, 7-7) as a stepping stone for Saturday’s home game against red hot St. Johns. However, the Friars were no cake walk for the Wildcats. Jay Wright’s squad was trailing 22-13 with 10:13 to go in the first half before a James Bell lay-up, assisted beautifully by Ryan Arcidiacono, got the Wildcats back on track. Arcidiacono finished the night leading the team in scoring with 21 points, 6 assists, and 3 steals.¬†Getting the ball in the basket was not a pressing issue for the Wildcats. In fact all five starters ended the night in double figures.

So why did a team with previous wins over Kansas and Iowa struggle to pull way from a mediocre team like Providence?

Lets take a look at the numbers.

What kept the Friars in this conference ballgame was their ability to hit the three-ball and sink their free-throws under pressure. The solid shooting from the line came as no surprise. Providence leads the Big East in free throw percentage, shooting 79% from the strip. This statistic correlates with the Friars’ 83% shooting on Sunday night while the Wildcats shot a mere 62% from the line.

The Wildcats went 9-28 (32.1%) from beyond the arc, Arcidiacono counting for four of those nine makes. On the other side of the court, the Friars were smooth sailing from three-point range shooting 9-19(47.4%). While the Wildcats may have 3-point sharpshooters like Arcidiacono and James Bell, letting JayVaughn Pinkston chuck up 2 or 3 bricks every game is not the way to effectively use an offensive possession.

Jay Wright is a smart coach and there is no doubt he knows the full potential of his dangerous Wildcat frontcourt. So stop letting Pinkston shoot from long range. Let him cut and get the ball where he is most comfortable.

Villanova had a disturbingly hard time taking the lead and an even harder time maintaining the lead. There were 16 lead changes on the night and the Wildcats only held the lead for 2 of the 20 minutes in the first half.

Friar forward Kadeem Batts had a stellar evening, tying Arcidiacono’s game high of 21 points as well as bringing down 10 boards. Batts’ vertical leap allowed him to grab rebounds on the offensive end giving his team multiple second chances late in the game. However, not giving credit to Villanova big man Daniel Ochefu’s rebounding ability this season would just be plain foolish. Ochefu is averaging 6 rebounds per game, and 2 rpg offensively. It is not just his rebounding ability that has impressed everyone this season. He has some kick to him! Ochefu’s steal, throw down, plus the foul gave the Owls a 5-point lead late in the second half.

Ochefu’s performance was solid, there’s no doubt about that. But Arcidiacono came into the game when it mattered most. What sets him aside from the rest of the point guards in the Big East is his confidence. He had a chance to win the game in the first OT but missed on a lay-up driving to the basket. Oh ye of little faith.

With 3 seconds remaining in the 2nd overtime period, Arcidiacono drives left, nudges the defender looking for the foul and forces one off the glass and into the net. The sophomore goes on to make the free throw. That’s the game.

This guy is going to be very fun to watch in the tournament.

Despite Villanova’s recent struggles, don’t be surprised if you find this team at a number #2 seed come selection Sunday.

The Cats next face Big East rival St. Johns(18-9, 8-6) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 1:30. Coverage: Fox Sports 1.