Villanova’s fall from grace continued on Wednesday night in Providence, R.I.
The formerly top-ranked Wildcats were dealt their second loss in a span of three games against an unranked team as the Friars upset the No. 3 team in the country with a 76-71 victory at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Kyron Cartwright scored 17 to lead the Friars to their second win against a top-five team this year. Providence (17-9, 8-5 Big East) upset then-No. 5 Xavier 81-72 at home on Jan. 6 before losing at then-No. 1 Villanova 89-69 four games later.
Villanova’s plight began with a shocking 79-75 loss to St. John’s on its home court Feb. 7. The Wildcats (23-3, 10-3) overcame a 13-point, first-half deficit to win 86-75 against Butler at home before falling to the Friars.
Rodney Bullock and Alpha Diallo each had 14 points and six rebounds, Jalen Lindsey scored 13 points and Isaiah Jackson added 11 for Providence.
Mikal Bridges had a game-high 19 points and seven rebounds for Villanova and Wildcats leading-scorer Jalen Brunson had 14 points, but also seven turnovers.
The Friars’ win snapped a five-game skid in the series versus Villanova, marking Providence’s first win over the Wildcats since an 82-76 decision in OT on Jan. 24, 2016.
Villanova struggled out of the gate while shooting 39.1 percent and committing seven fouls and six turnovers while falling behind 27-23 at halftime.
A three-point play from Jackson gave Providence its biggest lead at 49-39 with 11:27 remaining, but the Wildcats scored eight straight points to pull within two on Bridges’ 3-pointer with 10:26 on the clock.
The Friars went back up by as many as nine in the final 10 minutes before Villanova pulled within 74-71 on Eric Paschall’s putback with 14.4 seconds left.
Diallo was fouled with 12.8 ticks to go and made both free throws for Providence. Collin Gillespie missed a good look from 3 at the other end and a desperation heave after Cartwright’s missed free throw was off target.
Bridges’ dunk with 5:17 left in the first half matched the Wildcats’ biggest lead at 21-19 before the Friars ended the period on an 8-2 run.
Providence is at Butler and Villanova faces a tough test at No. 4 Xavier on Saturday.
—Field Level Media