By Sean Kennedy
Villanova 82, Providence 79 (2OT)
The Cardiac Cats are back! For the fourth time this season, a Villanova game required more than the usual 40 minutes to determine the victor, and for the fourth time this season, the Wildcats emerged victorious. Once again, when Jay Wright needed a key basket from his squad, he turned to point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who drove and made a sweeping lay-up in the closing seconds of double overtime, shielding his defender with the body to also draw the foul. Providence’s LaDontae Henton had sank a huge three toward the end of regulation to force overtime, but his game-tying attempt in the second extra frame only found iron, and Villanova escaped with the victory.
Arcidiacono led the team with 21 points, while JayVaughn Pinkston contributed 20, despite shooting just 4-10 from the foul line. Leading scorer Bryce Cotton again paced the Friars with a game-high 22 points, hitting the game-tying three in the closing moments of the first overtime, although he was only 6-20 from the field on the game. Providence used their rugged interior play to stay even with the Wildcats, as Kadeem Betts and Tyler Harris both record double-doubles as part of a 45-34 rebounding advantage for the Friars. Yet again however, it was the pressure defense employed by Villanova that helped them prevail, as they forced 19 turnovers including 4 in the second overtime. They’ll next face St. John’s at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday.
7:00 PM: Drexel (14-11, 6-6 CAA) @ James Madison (10-17, 5-8 CAA)
The plucky Dragons enter the home stretch of their schedule, but three of their final four contests are on the road, beginning tonight against the Dukes. In these teams’ first meeting two weeks ago, Drexel rolled by 18 behind 26 points from Chris Fouch and a double-double from new starter Rodney Williams. Drexel was playing with the same injury-depleted roster in that game that they’ll take the court with tonight, so we know they have the capability to take down James Madison again.
The Dukes have won two of three games since that loss to Drexel. However, the two wins came against the teams below them in the CAA standings, and they’ve still struggling mightily on the offensive end, having not eclipsed 65 points in any of those three contests. One boost for James Madison will be leading scorer Andre Nation (with an awesome name that already sounds like a social media movement), who missed the first game against Drexel but leads the Dukes at 16 ppg. Still, with Frantz Massenat playing outstanding ball of late, and Fouch already having a big performance against JMU under his belt, the Dragons should have enough firepower to move back above .500 in conference play.
7:00 PM: Saint Joseph’s (17-7, 7-3 A-10) @ Rhode Island (11-15, 2-9 A-10)
With their most difficult part of the schedule in the rear view mirror, the Hawks continue their drive to the top of the A-10 standings, sitting just a half-game away from 2nd-place in a stacked conference. The A-10 is making noise for as many as 6 teams possibly making the NCAA tournament, and St. Joe’s wants to make sure there’s no doubt that they will be included in that group. To do so, they have to avoid any slip-up tonight in Rhode Island.
The team’s first meeting this season ended a little too close for comfort, as St. Joe’s won by just 4 points, getting out-rebounded 40-30 and shooting an uncharacteristic 2-14 from three. One would expect the Hawks to shoot the ball better in this contest, and ultimately prevail against a Rams team without any especially dangerous offensive weapons. Xavier Munford leads the team at 16 ppg, but on just 39% shooting from the field. The 16-point, 5-16 effort from Munford against the Hawks earlier this season was very indicative of his usual performance. Even on the road and given that Rhode Island stuck around against St. Joe’s on Hawk Hill, Martelli’s squad should have no trouble avoiding a letdown against the Rams.
9:00 PM: La Salle (12-12 (4-6 A-10) @ Dayton (17-8, 5-5 A-10) – CBS Sports Network
With their season on life support, the reeling Explorers head to Ohio needing a win in the worst way. La Salle has won just 1 of its past 7 contests, and a loss to Dayton would drop them below .500 for the first time since their opening loss of the season. The Flyers are on the opposite situation, as they have won four straight games on the strength of one of the nation’s best offenses.
As a team, Dayton has shot 47% from the field and 38% from three, some of the better marks in college basketball and so far ahead of the 41%/32% of La Salle that they might as well be playing different sports. Senior forward leads the team in both scoring and rebounding, and can also step behind the arc for the occasional three, where he shoots 43.5%. Guards Jordan Sibert and Khari Price can also both really chuck it up from distance, each firing at over a 42% 3PT clip. La Salle has actually been above average defending the three this year, as opponents are shooting just 32.8% against them. As usual, it will come down to whether the Explorers guards shoot them out of the game, and if recent form holds, it will be another somber trip back to Philadelphia.