Providence's Bryce Cotton
(11) was superb against Villanova, but the Friars
couldn't finish the upset. (Elise Amendola/AP)
If practice makes perfect, Providence should be a regular wizard in overtime before the season ends. The Friars played in their fifth overtime game of the year, dropping a double-overtime heartbreaker, 82-79, to No. 9 Villanova in a home game they desperately needed to have to bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Friars jumped out to a 22-13 lead, but 'Nova stormed back to tie it up at 33 at the half. The second period was more of the same, with both teams exchanging punch and counter punch as neither Providence nor Villanova were able to wrest control away from the other. The Wildcats looked to be taking control, leading by five with just over a minute to play. But Darrun Hilliard fouled Bryce Cotton (22 points, nine assists, seven rebounds) near midcourt with the Friars in the double bonus, and Cotton hit both free throws to cut it to three. After getting a stop and calling a timeout, LaDontae Henton drilled a three to tie it at 63 and send it to OT.
The first overtime was tightly played as well, and Hilliard hit a three with 1:03 to play to put 'Nova up two, but a Cotton layup knotted it up at 72. The Wildcats, who often started their sets a bit later than they should have, ran into that same problem and weren't able to execute at the end of the period.
Cotton hit another clutch bucket in the second overtime with 29 seconds to play to get it to 79-79, but Ryan Arcidiacono (21 points, six assists) got a shot to drop and was fouled, putting 'Nova up three. A Henton three was off the mark, and Nova escaped.
It might be too early to predetermine whether or not Ed Cooley's team will be on the right side of the bubble when the committee starts comparing résumés, but this was one could have stuck out as a quality bullet point. Instead the Friars will be left hoping they'll have another chance to pick up a quality win or two down the stretch. While Providence certainly passes the eye test more often than not, they still only three KenPom top 50 wins this season.