Providence, RI (WPRI) – The Providence College Friars helped their NCAA Tournament cause with a big win over #3 Villanova Wednesday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center. PC faithful stormed the court as the Friars celebrated their best win of the season. Kyron Cartwright led PC with 17 points, 15 in the second half as five Friar players scored in double figures.
The win over the Wildcats coupled with Providence’s win over #5 Xavier earlier in the season gives Ed Cooley’s team a compelling argument for their fifth straight trip to the big dance.
Rodney Bullock and Alpha Diallo each added 14 points for the Friars (17-9, 8-5 Big East), who snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
It was Providence’s first win over Villanova since Jan. 24, 2016.
Mikal Bridges had 19 points for Villanova, but fouled out with 1:12 to play in the game. Jalen Brunson added 14 points.
Villanova (23-3, 10-3) pulled within 59-54 on a pair of free throws by Omari Spellman with 6:25 left. But the Friars outscored the Wildcats 8-4 over the next two minutes to push the lead back to 67-58.
Collin Gillespie gave the Wildcats a chance after his layup trimmed Providence’s lead 72-69 on a layup with 29 seconds left. Cartwright then connected on 1 of his 2 free throws on the other end.
Villanova missed on its ensuing possession and was forced to foul with 20.6 left. Cartwright again hit 1 of 2, and Eric Paschall made a layup on the other end to make it 74-71.
The Wildcats fouled again with 12.8 left, but this time Diallo was able to convert on a pair of free throws.
Spellman, who entered the night leading the team in rebounding, wore a protective mask on Wednesday after suffering a fracture to a small facial bone during Saturday’s win over Butler.
He stayed active underneath the basket, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds. The extra opportunities helped the Wildcats outscore the Friars 44-20 in the paint.
But Villanova struggled from the outside, missing 17 of 20 3-point attempts. The Wildcats also finished with 19 turnovers.
The Friars found an offensive rhythm early in the second half and took a 39-31 lead on a 3-pointer by Cartwright. But Cartwright was forced to the bench two minutes later after picking up his fourth foul with 14:09 to play in the game.