VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Dylan Ennis and Ryan Arcidiacono chased a loose ball and knocked heads, sending both to the Villanova bench.
Leading by 30 points, the double noggin-knocker to their key backcourt scorers was about the Wildcats’ only scare of the game.
Ennis and Arcidiacono were fine, sharing a chuckle on the bench over their accidental head butt and winning their latest laugher.
JayVaughn Pinkston scored 19 points, Ennis had 17 and No. 11 Villanova led all the way in a 91-61 romp over Providence on Sunday night.
Pinkston dunked off the opening tip, and the Wildcats (13-1, 2-0 Big East) simply dominated from there, thrashing the Friars (10-5, 0-2), who beat them twice last season. The Wildcats opened on a 9-0 run, and hit 10 of their first 11 shots to build a 24-point lead.
The Wildcats, emerging as the Big East favorite, won their eighth game of the season by 20-plus points.
“The key was just jumping on them early,” coach Jay Wright said.
No doubt about that. They can thank their long-range game for the hefty cushion.
The Wildcats were shooting 32 percent from 3-point range this season, but connected with ease in the first half. Darrun Hilliard, Josh Hart and Ennis all hit two to help the Wildcats go 7 of 13 in the first half. They made 14 of 26 overall.
Because of quick foul trouble, James Bell played only 1 minute in the first half. But Villanova’s second-leading scorer joined the 3-point parade in the second half, hitting two straight for a 59-30 lead.
Bryce Cotton scored 25 points and was the lone highlight for the Friars. Cotton made all three 3s in the first half for 16 points and played hard until the end.
“We looked like we were in mud the whole game,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.
The Friars have had decent success through the years against Villanova. The Friars had two three-point wins over the NCAA tournament-bound Wildcats last season and their seven career victories at the Pavilion are the most of any opponent.
But this one was never close.
“When you shoot a lot of 3s like that, you’re going to have some nights where you look really good,” Wright said. “You’re going to have some nights where you look really bad. On those nights when you look really bad, you’ve got to find other ways. But when you shoot it like that, everything’s going to look good.”
Pinkston’s dunk and Hilliard’s 3-pointer keyed the 9-0 run that forced Providence into a timeout less than 3 minutes into the game. Hart’s second 3 of the half made it 22-6 and Arcidiacono, whose late 3 led Villanova to an early season upset over then-No. 2 Kansas, made it 30-12 with his first 3-pointer.
The Friars let teams shoot 35 percent against them this season from 3-point range. They would have gladly accepted that number on the road.
“It was an awful game,” Cooley said.
Continuing the pattern, Ennis buried two straight late 3s, sending the Wildcats into halftime with a 50-26 lead.
The second half was a mere formality.
Ennis connected on a 3-pointer, the fifth straight made basket for the Wildcats, for a 66-32 lead. They led by as many as 34 points.
Ennis and Arcidiacono slammed into each other on a loose ball pursuit, and the team trainer had to check them out. But they were fine and returned to the game.
They were as tough as Villanova’s defense. Yes, the gaudy offensive numbers stand out, but the Wildcats forced 17 turnovers and held the dejected and depleted Friars to 35 percent shooting.
“It’s all about defense and rebounding,” Hilliard said. “That’s what we come into games thinking about. When shots are falling, that’s when it’s kind of easier for us. But we just pride ourselves on getting stops.”
Villanova’s bench outscored Providence’s 20-0 in the first half. The Wildcats made seven 3s in the first half while the Friars scored just seven baskets.
“Not a thing positive from today,” Cooley said. “Did you see something positive out there? If you see something positive, then you’re a magician.”
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