PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Early Wednesday morning Villanova’s Josh Hart was in bed battling a virus bug.
Several hours later, he bounced bag from slow start and scored all 10 of his points in the second half to help the sixth-ranked Wildcats beat Providence 74-68.
Hart, who was whistled for two fouls and missed his only field-goal attempt in the first half, made two 3-pointers to key Villanova’s 11-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 48-34 lead with 8:16 remaining in the game.
“Those two 3s were big,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We were getting stops for a while but we weren’t scoring. Those two 3s were incredible for a guy that just flew up here and got here around 11:45 today.
“He had an I.V. in him. He’s a gutsy kid. I’m really proud of him. You have to do things to gain the respect of your teammates. It doesn’t matter what you say. He did it.”
Ryan Arcidiacono scored 20 points, Daniel Ochefu had 19, and Darrun Hilliard added 16 to help the Wildcats (22-2, 9-2 Big East) win their fifth straight.
LaDontae Henton scored 23 points — including 19 in the second half — and Kris Dunn and Tyler Harris added 17 points each to lead Providence (17-8, 7-4).
Villanova led 29-26 at halftime before Hilliard hit a jumper and Arcidiacono made a 3 to extend the Wildcats’ lead to eight with 16:21 left in the second half.
Harris scored seven points in an ensuing 8-3 run to pull Providence with three less than 3 minutes later, prompting Wright to call a timeout. The Wildcats then responded with their 11-0 spurt.
“I remember specifically we were up eight and then they cut it to three,” Arcidiacono said. “Before coach got into the huddle all the captains kind of looked at each other and said we have to turn this up defensively. That’s what I thought we did.
“It wasn’t about the offense. The offense was coming because we were getting stops defensively. That’s where it all started.”
Hart made the two 3s and Ochefu scored five points during the run and the Wildcats led by at least six until Dunn had a layup and Henton made a 3 to pull Providence to 73-68 with 8 seconds remaining.
Villanova held Providence to 44.8 percent shooting (13 for 29) in the second half while making 50 percent (20 of 40) during the final 20 minutes.
“I was very pleased with our defense,” Wright said of his team’s man-to-man alignment. “When we’re good defensively we’re good as a unit, playing off of each other. We’re not the kind of team that can put Dylan (Ennis) on Kris Dunn and shut him down. We’ve got to do it as a team.
“I thought we played really good team defense. We switched on Dunn sometimes. We tried to double him sometimes. He’s very good.”
Once Providence began fouling, Villanova made 70 percent (14 of 20) of its free throws in the final 3:29.
“It was a great win for us in one of the toughest places to play in the country,” Wright said. “This is a really good Providence team. You’ve got to be tough in here. You’ve got to be tough-minded.
“They played well here and they did. I’m really proud of our guys.”
Neither team led by more than six points in a defensive-minded first half.
Arcidiacono made a 3-pointer with 3:27 left in the first half to give Villanova its first six-point lead, 27-21. Dunn’s 3 pulled the Friars to 29-26 at halftime.
Villanova: Ochefu shot 7 for 7 from the field and also had nine rebounds. … Hart was 2 for 2 from the field and 4 for 6 on free throws in the second half.
Providence: Henton wound up scoring 20 or more points for the 13th time. He’s now scored 2,002 points in his career and ranks sixth all-time on the Friars’ scoring list.
Arcidiacono made it tough on Providence nearly every time he touched the ball. He shot 57 percent (4 for 7) from the floor, 50 percent (3 for 6) from beyond the arc and was 9 for 9 at the free-throw line.
Villanova: At Butler on Saturday.
Providence: Hosts Seton Hall on Saturday.
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