Saturday afternoon No. 3 Villanova visits No. 11 Providence in a rematch of an entertaining game played in Philadelphia January 24, with the Friars winning in overtime. However both teams could enter Saturday’s game at less than full strength, with their starting big men dealing with injuries.
Villanova senior center Daniel Ochefu hasn’t played since that loss to Providence due to a concussion suffered in practice in the days leading up to the Wildcats’ win over Creighton, and the program announced Friday that he is doubtful to return to the court Saturday.
Without Ochefu the Wildcats have started junior Darryl Reynolds in the post, and fellow junior Kris Jenkins put forth two of his best outings of the season in wins over Creighton and St. John’s. If Ochefu can’t play against the Friars, those two will once again be key for Jay Wright’s team.
As for Providence, sophomore forward Ben Bentil was listed as day-to-day following an ankle injury he suffered in a loss at DePaul Wednesday night. Bentil, who has been one of the nation’s most improved players this season, played just 14 minutes against the Blue Demons as a result of the injury. Without him Providence would likely call upon freshman Quadree Smith, who himself had injury issues to navigate earlier this season, for more minutes in the paint.
With Bentil sidelined for most of the game freshman Ryan Fazekas also saw increased minutes, playing 29 in what was his most extensive action since playing 35 minutes in the Friars’ win at Rhode Island in early December.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Kris Dunn had 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists to lead No. 12 Providence to an 83-65 victory over St. John’s 83-65 on Saturday, the Friars’ eighth straight win.
Dunn scored 12 straight points for the Friars in the second half after the Red Storm closed within 56-50 with 9:30 remaining. Providence led 43-31 at halftime and went up by as many as 17 points early in the second half before St. John’s went on its run.
A preseason All-America, Dunn cooled off the Red Storm with consecutive 3-pointers that helped the Friars (14-1, 2-0 Big East) re-establish control.
Providence’s Ben Bentil overcame a slow start to finish with 20 points and nine rebounds while Rodney Bullock had 13 points and eight rebounds. Kyron Cartwright added 11 points, all in the first half.
Yankuba Sima had 14 points for St. John’s (7-8, 0-2), which lost its fifth straight.
St. John’s: The Red Storm entered play Saturday tied for fifth in Division I with 6.5 blocks per game.
Providence: With the win at Butler on Thursday, the Friars finished December with a 7-0 record. It marks the first time the team went undefeated in December since posting a 7-0 mark in 1988-89.
St. John’s hosts No. 6 Xavier on Wednesday.
Providence hosts Marquette on Tuesday.
With current point guard Kris Dunn projected to be both one of the top players in college basketball this season and a first round pick in next June’s NBA Draft, Providence was in need of a player capable of helping out in that role once Dunn leaves. Sunday night Ed Cooley and his staff received a verbal commitment from a recruit talented enough to fill that role.
Maliek White, a 6-foot-2 point guard from Richmond, Virginia, announced via Twitter that he’s committed to the Big East program. White is Providence’s first verbal commitment in the class, and he’s an important addition given the eventual departure of Dunn. Also eligible to play next season is Isaiah Jackson, who’s sitting out this season after transferring in from George Mason.
White took an official visit to Providence this weekend, one week after visiting Pittsburgh and he also had a trip to Georgia Tech scheduled for mid-October. Currently attending George Wythe High School, White played for the River City Reign grassroots program this summer.
White, who can play some off the ball if need be, won’t be the only player competing for minutes at the point when he arrives on campus next year assuming that Dunn will have moved on. Sophomore Kyron Cartwright, who made eight starts a season ago, averaged 3.5 points and 2.6 assists in just under 19 minutes of action per game.
Video credit: The Hoops Column
h/t Kevin McNamara, Providence Journal