No. 16 Providence hands No. 4 Villanova first Big East in overtime thriller

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The streak is over.

No. 4 Villanova had won 22 straight games against Big East competition, dating back to a Jan. 19th, 2015, loss at Georgetown, but that run came to an end on Sunday afternoon as No. 16 Providence and Kris Dunn beat the Wildcats in an overtime thriller in the Wells Fargo Center, 82-76.

Dunn was, once again, the star for the Friars, finishing with 13 points, 14 assists, five boards and three steals to go along with a host of tough plays in key moments late in the game. It’s performances like that that have made Dunn a shoe-in for first-team all-american, a favorite to win National Player of the Year and a soon-to-be top five pick in the NBA Draft.

We all know how good Dunn is.

But the key to this win for Providence was the play of his supporting cast.

The number that truly matters here for Dunn are those 14 assists. Everyone knows how Providence wants to play. They put the ball in Dunn’s hands and they let him create, and the adjustment that opponents have made in recent weeks has been to slough off of the other Friars. If Kyron Cartwright or Junior Lomomba or Rodney Bullock is going to beat them, then so be it.

And that’s kind of what happened on Sunday. Cartwright and Lomomba combined for 25 points and six assists, hitting 3-for-8 from beyond the arc and capitalizing on the times when Villanova left them open. Ben Bentil, who may be the most under-appreciated player in all of college basketball, finished with another monster night, going for 31 points and 12 boards.

Those are the difference makers for the Friars, and quite often whether or not they actually make that difference comes down to whether or not they hit the shots that Dunn creates.

Because they are going to get the looks. Dunn is that talented of a playmaker and that unselfish. When opponents send two and three defenders at him, if they over-help, he’ll find the guy that’s left open.

On Sunday, those shots went down.

The loss cuts Villanova’s lead in the Big East standings in half, as Xavier, Providence, Creighton and Georgetown now all sit just a game behind the Wildcats in the loss column. Ryan Arcidiacono led the way for Villanova with 19 points, hitting another huge shot — his three with seven seconds left forced the over time. Josh Hart is Villanova’s best player and the one guy that might have a real shot to overtake Dunn as Big East Player of the Year, but Arch is probably Villanova’s most valuable player.

He’s better than what you see in the box score.