PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The ninth-ranked Villanova Wildcats fought off an upset bid by Providence and beat the Friars 82-79 in double overtime on Tuesday night.
Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono converted a three-point play with 3.6 seconds left in the second OT to allow Villanova, down by nine points in the first half, to escape with the Big East victory.
Arcidiacono held the ball out of a timeout and drove to the hoop on forward Kadeem Batts. He made the basket and fouled Batts out of the game.
The Friars had a chance to force a third OT when forward LaDontae Henton’s open 3-point shot from the corner missed.
The win, their seventh in the last eight and 12th in their last 14, lifted the Wildcats to 23-3 overall and 11-2 in the conference.
Providence, losing for the fourth time in the last five games, fell to 17-10, 7-7 and appears to be on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament.
Arcidiacono finished with 21 points and six assists. Forward JayVaughn Pinkston had 20 points and swingman James Bell added 17 points and nine rebounds.
Trying to avenge a 30-point loss at Villanova on Jan. 5, the Friars got off to a hot start but suffered through miserable shooting after that. Guard Bryce Cotton, their leading scorer, scored 22 points but was just 6-of-20 from the floor.
LaDontae Henton, the No. 2 scorer, was scoreless until the final minute. After hitting what would have been a tying 3-pointer with 29.3 seconds left because a timeout had been called, he then drilled one with 20.1 seconds on the clock to tie it and force OT.
The score was tied at the half and the opening of the second half was a turnover fest, with neither team able to get anything going. A 6-0 spurt gave the Wildcats the lead for good as they went up by five.
The Friars, spurred by a large and noisy home crowd, came out on fire, using a 13-2 run to go up 22-13 nine minutes into the game. At that point, Providence had made six of its last seven shots from the field to cap a 9-of-13 start.
But highly ranked teams normally shake off slow start and the Wildcats did that. They turned up the defense, especially on Cotton, and the Friars went through a 1-of-12 shooting stretch. Five of those misses came during one possession and Villanova had the lead down to one with four minutes left in the half.
Villanova’s free throw shooting — 2-of-7 from the start — kept the Wildcats, who led only at 11-9 during the first half, from taking the lead. But Villanova went ahead in the final 92 seconds of the half thanks to an eight-point spurt by Arcidiacono.
A silly foul by Villanova guard Dylan Ennis gave Cotton a 1-and-1 with 1.3 seconds left in the half and Cotton converted to leave the score tied at the break.
NOTES: Villanova swingman James Bell and Providence G Bryce Cotton joined Creighton F Greg McDermott as the Big East’s three candidates among the 30 still alive in the hunt for the Naismith Trophy as college basketball’s top player. … Villanova has its ninth 20-win season in the last 10 years and will also make the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in those 10 years. … The programs met for the first time in 1926. … Villanova returns home to host St. John’s on Saturday and has three of its last four regular-season games at home. Meanwhile, Providence plays three of its last four on the road, starting Sunday with the program’s first visit to Big East newcomer Butler.
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