No surprise, Villanova delivers in crunch time to beat Providence, advance in Big East Tournament

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No surprise, Villanova delivers in crunch time to beat Providence, advance in Big East Tournament

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NEW YORK — With its chances of a third straight Big East Conference Tournament title on the line, the players who carried No. 25 Villanova most of the season stepped up and took control.

Eric Paschall had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Collin Gillespie hit two 3-pointers in a game-deciding 17-5 run and point guard Phil Booth was a steadying influence as the top-seeded Wildcats beat Providence 73-62 in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

"Coach tells us we have to lead by example, talk to our younger guys and just do all the little things — playing defense, rebounding, not worrying about if our shot's going in," Paschall said. "I just feel like our whole team has been doing that. Our whole team's had a great attitude, and we're taking a step in the right direction."

Gillespie added 19 points and six assists and Booth had 13 points as the top-seeded Wildcats (23-9) beat the Friars (18-15) for the third time this season.

The defending national champions will face fourth-seeded Xavier (18-14) in the semifinals Friday at Madison Square Garden. The Musketeers edged fifth-seeded Creighton 63-61 in the second quarterfinal.

Nate Watson had 15 points to lead Providence, which was playing its second game in 18 hours. Alpha Diallo and Isaiah Jackson added 14 apiece for the Friars.

"I feel like the second half, we made adjustments and came out and gave ourselves a chance," Jackson said. "Just lack of discipline in the second half kind of hurt us -- late switches, miscommunication, offensive rebounds, threes — it just killed us in the second half."

Providence rallied from eight down to tie the game at 44 on a 3-point play by Diallo with 9:18 left.

Gillespie, who was 7 of 15 from the field, then took over. He hit a pair of 3-pointers in the big run while Paschall had a basket and 3-pointer. Providence drew to 63-58 on two free throws by Jackson but came no closer.

"He's the guy that really had the significant playing time last year, even though it wasn't a lot, but we count on him in some clutch situations," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Gillespie. "Again, he's another guy who's a sophomore and kind of treating him like a senior. He's got to be a leader, and he's got a lot on his shoulders too. He's been awesome all year."

The opening 20 minutes was a series of runs. Providence took a 9-2 lead and the Wildcats responded with 15 straight points. The Friars came back and led 23-22, but Villanova closed the half with a 9-1 run that featured 3-point baskets by Gillespie, Cole Swider and a three-point play by Booth.

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Providence: Hoping to get in the NIT.

"If we get in, I'll be very excited. I hope we do," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "If we're not, I'm going to be really proud of the guys and the effort that they had. But we left a lot of games on the table with our inconsistent approach in some of the games."

Villanova: Assured an NCAA Tournament berth.

Up next

Providence: Will probably end up in NIT.

Villanova: Plays Xavier in semifinals Friday. The teams split in the regular season, with the Musketeers winning the second game 66-54.

Eric Paschall, Phil Booth lead No. 13 Villanova past Providence

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Eric Paschall, Phil Booth lead No. 13 Villanova past Providence

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VILLANOVA, Pa. — By the time Eric Paschall and Phil Booth exited the game in the final minutes, some fans had already left the arena since the result was no longer in question. Those that remained made sure to give the two fifth-year seniors a hearty ovation.

Paschall scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half and No. 13 Villanova rebounded from its first Big East loss by running away from Providence 85-67 on Wednesday night.

Booth added 22 for the Wildcats (20-5, 11-1), who were fresh off a one-point loss to No. 10 Marquette after getting off to a program best 10-0 start in league play.

"Great leadership from our two seniors," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They've been carrying us a lot."

Nate Watson led Providence (14-11, 4-8) with 18 points. The Friars have lost four of their last five but were coming off an impressive 14-point road win at St. John's on Saturday.

"They had a lot of adults on the floor," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "Most old teams win. Not many young teams win, unless they're just the blue bloods of all blue bloods."

After two straight 3-pointers from Paschall put Villanova ahead 53-45 early in the second half, Providence scored the next 10 points, culminating with a steal and acrobatic reverse layup from Maliek White, to take a 55-53 lead with 10:29 remaining.

But Paschall delivered two more big threes - right in front of the `Nova bench - to help the Wildcats close the game on a 23-6 run. Underclassmen Saddiq Bey and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree helped seal the win with a 3-pointer and three-point play during the decisive spurt.

Pashcall shot 10 for 13 from the field and 5 for 6 from 3-point range. Cosby-Roundtree finished with 12 points and didn't miss a shot from the field (4 for 4) or the foul line (4 for 4) as Villanova shot 63 percent in the second half.

"We just knew we had to get better," Paschall said. "It was a whole bunch of little things we had to work on."

Providence junior Alpha Diallo, the eighth leading scorer and top rebounder in the Big East, was held scoreless until an emphatic dunk and three-point play with 1:38 left in the first half followed by a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left.

Diallo finished with 11 points and seven rebounds while committing five turnovers.

"I was proud of our guys for about 35 minutes," Cooley said. "I thought their experience and discipline showed late while our inexperience and lack of discipline showed late."

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Providence: The Friars, who have made the NCAA Tournament and won at least 20 games in each of the last five seasons, continue to struggle to put together complete performances. "Unless we can turn my team into another team, that's just what we're going to have to deal with with this year's group," Cooley said.

Villanova: The Wildcats have a one-game lead on Marquette for first place in the Big East while no other team in the league even has a winning record. Villanova won the first four regular-season championships of the revamped Big East before Xavier took the title last season.

Fouls upon fouls

After shooting a perfect 14 for 14 from the foul line in the first half, the Wildcats were on the wrong end of the whistle during one stretch midway through the second half in which they were called for four fouls in one possession.

Wright said he was proud of how his players kept their composure after what he called a "rare" sequence, while Booth claimed to have barely noticed the uniqueness of the situation.

"We were more focused on what we did wrong that caused the fouls," Booth said. "You just gotta keep playing."

Gotta have Hart

Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart, who led Villanova to the 2016 national championship, joined his old college team for practice Tuesday and was honored before Wednesday's game, while wearing a Jalen Brunson Dallas Mavericks jersey.

"He sat through a film session and said, `I shouldn't have entered that room, I couldn't get out,'" Wright laughed. "But it's always good to have him. Our guys love him."

Up next

Providence begins a three-game home stretch vs. Xavier on Saturday afternoon.

Villanova plays the first of three straight games on the road at St. John's on Sunday evening.

Villanova survives scoring drought to beat Providence

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Villanova survives scoring drought to beat Providence

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Phil Booth scored 23 points, including Villanova's only five points in the final eight minutes, and the Wildcats held off Providence 65-59 on Saturday.

Villanova took a 60-40 lead on a jumper by Cole Swider with 8:43 remaining in the second half before Providence went on a 16-0 run over the next seven minutes. Villanova missed its next six shots and committed seven turnovers and the Friars closed to within 60-56 on a 3-point play by Alpha Diallo with 1:27 remaining.

Booth finally stopped Villanova's scoring drought, making a layup and free throw for a 63-56 lead at 1:06. Mak Ashton-Langford hit a deep 3-pointer for Providence for a 63-59 score with 57 seconds to go. Ashton-Langford blocked a layup attempt by Booth and Providence had possession with 24 seconds left. But the Friars could not find a shot and were forced to call timeout with seven seconds remaining. Isaiah Jackson missed a deep 3-pointer after the timeout and Booth rebounded, was fouled and made both free throws for the final margin.

Booth added seven rebounds and four assists for Villanova (11-4, 2-0 Big East). Eric Paschall had 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Ashton-Langford led Providence (10-5, 0-2) with 20 points. He made all four of his 3-pointers. Jackson scored 11 points and Diallo added 10.