Providence, RI (SportsNetwork.com) - Still licking their wounds from another big loss to Creighton, the ninth-ranked Villanova Wildcats will try to bounce back when they visit the Providence Friars for a Big East Conference clash on Tuesday night.
It seems that the Bluejays simply have Villanova's number, as the only two losses the Wildcats have had in league action this year have come in blowout fashion against Creighton. Saturday's 101-80 setback was just the third for the Wildcats all season long, ending a six-game win streak. They will face St. John's and Butler in their next two outings.
Providence stopped a lengthy slide and put itself back on track for a possible NCAA Tournament berth by defeating DePaul, 84-61, on Saturday. The Friars, who had lost three straight prior to that test, are a solid 17-9 overall, but they have only had middling success in Big East play (7-6). They will visit Butler and Seton Hall in their next two outings.
These two teams are part of the old guard of the former Big East. Their first bout as members of the new league ended poorly for Providence, as Villanova rolled to a 91-61 victory at home. The Friars had won three of the previous four meetings, but the Wildcats still lead the all-time series, 53-37.
Once again Villanova failed to put up much of a fight defensively in its loss to Creighton. After allowing 21 3-pointers to the Bluejays in their first meeting in Philadelphia this season, the Wildcats were lit up by a 64.2 percent shooting effort on Sunday, including a 9-of-15 showing from beyond the arc.
Playing so poorly on defense is not a common problem for Villanova, which is allowing only 68 ppg on 41.2 percent shooting this season. The Wildcats are often the team pouring it on, as they are second in the Big East in both scoring (80.7 ppg) and assists (16.3 ppg), while ranking third in field goal percentage (.467). James Bell (16.1 ppg., 5.9 rpg) and Darrun Hilliard (13.7 ppg) form a solid scoring duo in the backcourt, while Ryan Arcidiacono (9.5 ppg, 3.7 apg) lends support as a gunner from 3-point range. JayVaughn Pinkston (14.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) is the main threat up front. Bell had 18 points against Creighton, and Pinkston dropped in 15.
Providence was the hot shooting team in its last matchup, knocking down 52.9 percent of its field goal attempts en route to a 23-point win over DePaul. The Friars also scored 23 points off 12 turnovers, and blocked nine shots. Bryce Cotton scored 22 points to lead six players in double figures.
Cotton (21.2 ppg, 5.8 apg) is one of the top playmakers in the Big East, providing impressive production both as a scorer and a passer. He leads the league in assists, adding to his total with six on Saturday, and is second in scoring. Cotton is really the only legitimate threat in the PC backcourt, with LaDontae Henton (13.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Kadeem Batts (12.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Tyler Harris (11.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg) all punching their meal ticket in the frontcourt. Batts was the best of the three against DePaul, tallying 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.