VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore scored 15 points apiece, and No. 3 Villanova used a dominating second half to defeat Providence 71-56 on Saturday.
Caleb Daniels added 12 points and Jermaine Samuels had 10 for Villanova (10-1, 5-0 Big East), which won its eighth consecutive game.
Alyn Breed scored 18 points to pace Providence (8-7, 4-5).
Villanova was back on the court for just the second time since Dec. 23 due to multiple COVID-19 stoppages. The Wildcats eked out a 76-74 home win over Seton Hall in their return on Tuesday, a victory that impressed coach Jay Wright more in terms of resiliency than execution.
But that was to be expected without team practices and with players in quarantine, getting to the gym for individual workouts only — if at all. With a few practices this week under their belts, the Wildcats still looked rusty in the first half, when they shot 27% from the field while committing seven turnovers.
But a Gillespie 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer sent Villanova into the locker room down just 27-24 and, more importantly, likely feeling better.
It sure looked that way after the break.
The Wildcats surged out of the locker room, looking more like the year-in, year-out national championship contenders they have become under Wright. Villanova made 10 of its first 21 second-half shots, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl’s dunk on a pass from Moore made it 50-38 Villanova with 10:12 remaining. That capped a 26-11 run after halftime for the Wildcats.
Villanova got contributions from six players during the key spurt, with Daniels’ eight points and Moore’s six leading the way.
The Wildcats took control from there, maintaining a double-digit lead the rest of the way. They outscored Providence 47-29 in the second half.
Providence led by as many as nine points in the first half, when both teams struggled offensively. Jimmy Nichols’ one-handed, driving slam dunk got the Friars going and helped kick-start a 10-0 run that made it 20-11 with just over six minutes left before the break.
The Wildcats looked out of sync all half, finishing 8 for 30 from the field, including 3 of 12 from the arc.
But struggling at home against Providence is nothing new for Villanova. The Wildcats entered with three home losses to Providence since 2013, the most victories by any Big East team over Villanova during that time. Wright acknowledged on Friday that it’s always difficult matching up against Providence, especially in the latter part of the season when he believes coach Ed Cooley has his team playing its best.
And the Friars entered feeling good after their 74-70 win Wednesday at No. 11 Creighton. Providence is used to playing well against ranked teams, having won seven of their last eight against ranked opponents dating to last season.
HERE COMES THE SUN
The start of the second half was delayed by about 15 minutes due to sun glare coming from a window high in Finneran Pavilion behind the visiting basket. A dark cover was hung over the window to block the sun.
Providence: After four straight on the road, the Friars are scheduled to play four of their next five at home. They will be looking to use that stretch to position themselves favorably for the Big East Tournament.
Villanova: After several COVID-19 pauses, the Wildcats now have a busy slate to end the regular season. They are scheduled to play 12 games in 38 days.
Providence: The Friars return home to host Marquette on Wednesday night.
Villanova: The Wildcats play the first of three straight on the road on Thursday at UConn. It will be Villanova’s first trip to Storrs since Feb. 16, 2013.
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