Jan. 3, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - With one hard-earned BIG EAST victory in its pocket, No. 11 Villanova returns home on Sunday night in search of another as Providence (10-4 overall, 0-1 BIG EAST) pays a visit to the Pavilion (7:00 p.m./Fox Sports 1 and CBS Sports Radio 610).
The Friars defeated the Wildcats in both meetings between the two squads last season, including a 55-52 verdict on Feb. 3, 2013 at the Pavilion. Providence has more appearances at the Pavilion than any other Villanova opponent since the building opened on Feb. 1, 1986 and its seven wins in the facility on Ithan Avenue are the most of any opponent.
In its last action on New Year's Eve, Villanova outlasted Butler 76-73 in its BIG EAST opener in Indianapolis.
"It's tough to win on the road in any conference, it's definitely hard to win on the road in the Big East and it's very hard to win at Hinkle Fieldhouse," noted Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "It was a real test of our mental toughness. That's what I was really impressed about with our guys. You've got to maintain that.
"Now you've got a hungry Providence team coming in here that I'm sure thought let one slip away against Seton Hall. Our mindset coming in here will be (very) important."
Providence fell in double overtime at the Dunkin Donuts Center Tuesday 81-80 to the Pirates. The Friars are led by guard Bryce Cotton (19.9 ppg) and Wright sees a similarity in Cotton to Butler standout Kellen Dunham, who scored 22 points for the Bulldogs in the meeting with Villanova.
"He's a lot like Dunham but he's got the ball in his hands more," stated Wright. "He can shoot the ball coming off a screen and he can get a shot off at any time. He's really difficult to guard that way. And, because he's forced to play the point, he's passing the ball better. He's such an integral part of their offense."
Wright, though, sees a different version of the team the Wildcats faced last season. Guard Vincent Council (graduated) and Kris Dunn (injured) aren't in the mix but Providence coach Ed Cooley can call on a talented frontline which includes LaDontae Henton (12.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Kadeem Batts (12.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and newcomer Tyler Harris (14.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), a transfer from North Carolina State.
"We're (also) concerned with their forwards, their rebounding and their length," stated Wright. "They are so long and athletic. That's going to be a great challenge for us."
Wildcats forward JayVaughn Pinkston contributed 22 points to the triumph over Butler and now has 967 career points. Only 56 players have scored 1,000 or more career points at Villanova, a chart that is led by all-time scoring leader Kerry Kittles (2,243).
This game begins a busy week for the Wildcats. Villanova visits Seton Hall on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network) and then is at Madison Square Garden to battle St. John's at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 11 (Fox Sports 1).
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