VILLANOVA, Pa. 2/7/12 – The Providence Friars visited the Pavilion to meet the Villanova Wildcats. It was a game where each team needed a victory. The season did not progress as expected for either squad. Now would be the time to get the situation turned into a positive direction. That would happen for the Villanova men’s team, just in a way they never imagined. Everything was going against the Wildcats. Their young players were on the floor. They grew up in a hurry. A furious rally down the stretch gave Villanova a 74 – 72 win over Providence at the Pavilion.
“It was a great experience having the young guys on the floor at the end of the game,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “It was pretty cool. This is good for us in the long run, and we have a chance to build on this.”
At the end of the first half Providence broke open a tie game with a 16 – 2 run over the last three and a half minutes of the half behind three shots from distance from guard Bryce Cotton. Providence went into halftime leading 44 – 30. In the second half Providence extended the lead to 60 – 41 with 14 minutes to play. The Wildcats would lose their leading scorer Junior guard Maalik Wayns with a left knee injury at the 11:31 mark. Their fortunes would rest with the play of Sophomore forward JayVaughn Pinkston and Freshman guard Ty Johnson. Villanova worked the ball inside to Pinkston and Junior forward Mouphtaou Yarou. Gradually Villanova cut into the lead putting together a 22 – 3 run to tie the game at 63 with 5:18 to play on a three by Junior guard Dominic Cheek. Providence stretched the lead back to 70 – 65 at the 3:14 mark. Villanova went back inside to Pinkston who scored the last 9 points for the Wildcats. His dunk off a steal by Johnson tied the game at 72 with the clock showing 1:14. A Pinkston layup at 24 seconds ended the scoring as Providence could not convert their last chances at the basket.
“When you get down 18 or 20 points the only thing you can do is fight to the last second,” Wright said. “That’s the only way you have a chance. Anything less than that, you have no chance. There is a period of time when you’re saying ‘don’t give in, play to the last second.’ When we got it (the deficit) to four, we could do this, we could definitely do it.”
Pinkston had a career-high in points with 28 and rebounds with 14, 6 offensive. Yarou and Cheek each scored 17 points. Villanova had a 38 – 26 edge in points in the paint and 13 – 7 in 2nd Chance points. The Wildcats converted 51.5% of their shots in the second half.
“Maalik is a big part of our team and we could have used him,” said Cheek. “We all stepped up. JayVaughn stepped up big.”
Cotton scored a team-high 20 Providence, but just 2 in the second half. Wright credited the defense played by Johnson for the ability to contain Cotton in this find a way victory. Guard Vincent Council added 17 points and 7 assists, while guard Gerard Coleman scored 16 points.
“I think it bodes well for our future,” Wright said about the come from behind win. “I’ve been looking for a situation to get Ty Johnson some positive minutes. He did a great job on Council in the second half. For our young guys it will give them a lot of confidence.”
Villanova is now 11 – 13 for the season, and 4 – 8 in the Big East. They have eight days off before playing at South Florida. This will give time for Wayns to heal his left knee. He will have an MRI on Thursday to reveal the extent of the injury.
Written By: Glenn Papazian