Published: Mon, March 12, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

College hoops glance: Providence fends off Creighton in OT

College hoops glance: Providence fends off Creighton in OT

ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi now has Villanova penciled in as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and Providence on the No. 10 line entering Selection Sunday.

'Nova started strong on the defensive end Saturday night, as freshman forward Omari Spellman made a block on the first possession, followed by a turnover created on a trap led by junior forward Mikal Bridges on the very next possession.

The Wildcats rank eighth in steals allowed per game (4.5) while the Friars rank 166th (6.7). But the defense was excellent, holding the Musketeers to just four points themselves.

Providence has taken pretty much the exact opposite route to the title game, beating both Creighton and Xavier in overtime. A Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree free throw made it 11-2.

Diallo led Providence with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Cartwright scored 19. PC overcame an early five-point deficit (8-3) as Creighton mis-fired on 11 of its first 16 shots from the floor, the Friars having their largest lead at six points (18-12). I wanted it back right when I let it go, I just felt it was a little short and I didn't really give it a chance. If the Friar's can't at least slow Bluiett down, they will meet the same fate that St. John's met.

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In response to the Friars' surging momentum, Wright reinserted his go-to lineup, four starters and sophomore guard Dante DiVincenzo in place of Phil Booth.

But Bridges and Brunson were the difference for Villanova.

We must say, that isn't a bad way to handle it, all things considered. I just want them to see that I'm coming at them every play, every play, every play - no matter what the situation is. Senior Rodney Bullock (Hampton, Va.) added 10 points.

During their last five games, the Wildcats have scored an average of 86.0 points per game (1.4 below their season average) and allowed an average of 73.6 points per game (2.6 above their season average). Villanova won it all two years and expectations will be firmly set for them to do it again. There was one minute to play as the Friars prepared to inbound the basketball in tied game.

"What a win for Providence College and the character of the young men", Friars coach Ed Cooley said.

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By the midpoint of the half the Friars had weathered the second "storm" and gained some momentum.

Providence, which is seeking its fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth, tied the score three times in the final 3:45 of regulation, the last time came when Cartwright hit two free throws with 13 seconds to go to knot the score at 68. It was not to be however, as a Cartwright floater from the left elbow clanked harmlessly up off the rim and fell to the court. Brunson knotted the game at 60 with a pair of free throws to force overtime. Jalen Brunson led the Wildcats with a game-high 31 points.

"It keeps our team - honestly, he's the most mature person in the program, including me", Villanova Coach Jay Wright said.

On Sunday, Villanova will find out its fate for the NCAA Tournament.

"I go back to where we came from and where we're trying to go, our Big East is as dominant as any conference in the country - the product on the floor when people come out from Omaha, coming from Butler, from OH, tells you the brand and the product that's on the floor".

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