Villanova 74, Providence 72

JayVaughn Pinkston had 28 points and 14 rebounds to help

Villanova rally from a 19-point deficit and stun Providence 74-72

on Tuesday night.

Pinkston scored the last nine points for the Wildcats (11-13,

4-8 Big East) for their wildest victory of the season. Pinkston

simply dominated down the stretch, tying the game at 72-all with a

big dunk off a turnover, then powered down the lane for the winning

layup with 27 seconds left.

Villanova entered 14th in the Big East standings and Providence

15th. This has had the makings of a classic between two conference

heavyweights.

Dominic Cheek hit four clutch 3-pointers and scored 17 points

for the Wildcats. Mouphtaou Yarou had 17 points and eight

rebounds.

Bryce Cotton scored 20 points for Providence (13-12, 2-10).

Playing with stitches over his left eye, Pinkston took control

of a game that appeared all but lost.

LaDontae Henton’s 3-pointer gave Providence a 60-41 lead early

in the second half, and the Friars were rolling.

The fun ended fast.

Led by Pinkston and Cheek, the Wildcats found their groove.

Cheek’s 3 cut it to 61-60 with 5:56 left. Vincent Council’s

floater pushed it back to a three-point lead and snapped

Providence’s streak of 14 straight missed shots over an 8:25

span.

Providence clearly needed more baskets. Cheek buried the tying 3

to make it 63-63 in front of a jubilant Villanova bench.

The Friars took the lead on free throws, even as they lost their

shooting touch from the floor.

Former 76ers and Kansas coach Larry Brown rose from his baseline

seat and clapped in encouragement at Pinkston after he drew a tough

foul. Pinkston sank both from the line to make it 70-67. Pinkston

kept the deficit at two on a three-point play and his huge dunk off

Ty Johnson’s steal tied it.

He grabbed the defensive rebound on one of Providence’s final

misses and finished his run with the winning layup.

Pinkston needed stitches over his left eye after taking a blow

to the face late in the first half. He returned to the court

wearing No. 53 instead of his usual 22 and there was no last name

on the back of the jersey.

He was needed after leading scorer Maalik Wayns hit the bench

with a left knee injury and needed a big ice wrap to watch the

second half.

Wayns didn’t think he’d be needed after a dismal first half

seemingly put this one out of reach.

After Cheek hit a 3 that put Villanova ahead 28-26, the Friars

closed the half on a stunning 18-2 run. Cotton was the difference.

Cotton, a 42-percent 3-point shooter, was sinking shots like they

were 2-footers. He nailed two straight, let Council score a layup,

then buried two more 3s for a 44-30 lead.

Villanova made only 10 of 27 shots in the first half. The Friars

started 10 of 16 from the floor and finished a robust 60 percent

from the floor to build that 14-point lead.

It was just the latest half to forget for Villanova coach Jay

Wright. The Wildcats need a stunning run to the Big East tournament

championship to advance to the NCAA tournament for an eighth

straight season. Two games below .500, even the NIT could be out of

reach.

The second half was one to remember and shows the Wildcats might

have something to play for next month.