PHILADELPHIA — Luwane Pipkins scored 27 points to lead Providence to its fifth win over a Top 25 team this month, holding off No. 12 Villanova 58-54 on Saturday.
The Friars (17-12, 10-6) boosted their NCAA Tournament resume with a win in Philly where they led for the balance of the game. Providence already knocked off Butler, Creighton, Seton Hall and Marquette during their ranked-win streak in February. The Friars won their fourth straight game overall and have put behind a disastrous start to the season — which included losses to Long Beach State and College of Charleston – to aid their tournament chances.
The Wildcats (22-7, 11-5) played their worst game of the season and were never really in it, missing 3-pointer after 3-pointer to shoot themselves out of a chance at a victory.
The Wildcats missed 21 of 24 3s when Jeremiah Robinson-Earl hit one that brought the Wildcats to 46-44 with 3:51 left and sent the crowd into a frenzy. The Friars hung tight, and overcame Nate Watson’s fifth foul, to keep the lead. Villanova coach Jay Wright twirled around and covered his face when Justin Moore was whistled for a foul, but Maliek White missed two free throws and Robinson-Earl dunked on the other end to keep it a two-point deficit.
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Pipkins buried a jumper to again stretch the lead and coach Ed Cooley’s team now has the most wins over ranked teams since the 1986-87 and 1990-91 teams also had five.
The Friars only had to play average basketball to take a 30-18 lead into halftime. Pipkins hit three 3s and Providence shot 44 percent overall from the floor. The Friars also outscored Villanova 16-3 over the final 8 minutes.
Villanova, though, was just flat-out awful. The Wildcats missed 12 of 14 3s, made five turnovers and silenced an already lazy Saturday afternoon crowd at the home of the 76ers. Villanova even missed seven of nine from the free-throw line, an off half for a team shooting 77 percent overall.
Collin Gillespie (15.5 ppg) was the biggest offender, missing five of six shots (and both 3-point attempts) as he started and played 19 minutes after suffering a deep right thigh bruise against St. John’s. He winced midway through the second half when he crashed to the court to try and grab a loose rebound. It was more bad news on the next possession when leading scorer Saddiq Bey picked up his fourth foul with the Wildcats down 10. Bey fouled out at 6:51 of the second half and Nova down nine.
The lid seemed closed on both rims — the Friars at one point missed seven straight shots and 12 of 15 overall in the second half and still led by 10. It helped that Villanova was 5 of 14 to start the second half.
Providence was on the NCAA Tournament bubble and needed a road win to put themselves in at least First Four contention.
Villanova needs to shake this one off before a big one against Seton Hall and then the Big East Tournament.
Providence hosts Xavier on Wednesday.
Villanova plays Wednesday at No. 13 Seton Hall in one of the biggest Big East games of the season.