No. 3 Villanova 76, Providence 68
NEW YORK -- Villanova is headed to the Big East Tournament championship game for the second straight year after eliminating Providence 76-68 in the semifinals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
The No. 3 Wildcats (29-4) will meet the winner of the Xavier-Seton Hall game in Saturday's final.
Kris Jenkins led top-seeded Villanova with 21 points and Ryan Arcidiacono added 15 points to become the first player in Villanova history to score 1,500 or more points while logging 500 or more assists.
Daniel Ochefu was slowed by an ankle injury from earlier in the week in practice. He came off the bench to score eight critical points for Villanova -- all in the second half.
Rodney Bullock led fourth-seeded Providence (23-10) with 18 points.
Ben Bentil, the Big East's leading scorer who averaged 21 points per game, was plagued by foul trouble and contributed only three points for the Friars. He fouled out with 9:40 to play and Villanova ahead 52-41.
Ochefu found some energy, scoring five points in an 8-2 Villanova run that gave it a a 63-55 edge with 4:13 remaining.
After trailing by as much as 52-38 with 11:35 to play, Providence fought back with a 15-3 blitz that cut the deficit to 55-53 with 6:59 to go. That was the closest the Friars came.
After Bentil picked up his third foul only 12 seconds into the second half, Jenkins nailed two straight 3-pointers for a 38-27 Villanova lead.
A 9-2 run from the Wildcats gave them a 29-20 cushion, their largest margin of the first half.
One night after accumulating 38 points against Butler, Bentil only mustered three points in the first half. His lone field goal came just before the halftime buzzer, cutting Villanova's lead to 32-27.
Ochefu picked up three fouls in the half and, like Bentil, was a non-factor. His mobility in the low post was hampered by the ankle injury.
NOTES: In Providence's 74-60 quarterfinal win over Butler on Thursday, F Ben Bentil became the sixth player in Big East Tournament history to score at least 38 points. Bentil scored 51 points in two regular-season games against Villanova this season. ... Villanova is attempting to be the Big East's conference tournament and regular season champs for the second straight season. ... The team's split their two regular-season meetings. Providence won 82-76 in overtime at Villanova and the Wildcats took a 72-60 decision at Providence.