VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) JayVaughn Pinkston had 28 points and 14 rebounds to help Villanova rally from a 19-point deficit and stun Providence 74-72 on Tuesday night.
Pinkston scored the last nine points for the Wildcats (11-13, 4-8 Big East) for their wildest victory of the season. Pinkston simply dominated down the stretch, tying the game at 72-all with a big dunk off a turnover, then powered down the lane for the winning layup with 27 seconds left.
Villanova entered 14th in the Big East standings and Providence 15th. This has had the makings of a classic between two conference heavyweights.
Dominic Cheek hit four clutch 3-pointers and scored 17 points for the Wildcats. Mouphtaou Yarou had 17 points and eight rebounds.
Bryce Cotton scored 20 points for Providence (13-12, 2-10).
Playing with stitches over his left eye, Pinkston took control of a game that appeared all but lost.
LaDontae Henton's 3-pointer gave Providence a 60-41 lead early in the second half, and the Friars were rolling.
The fun ended fast.
Led by Pinkston and Cheek, the Wildcats found their groove.
Cheek's 3 cut it to 61-60 with 5:56 left. Vincent Council's floater pushed it back to a three-point lead and snapped Providence's streak of 14 straight missed shots over an 8:25 span.
Providence clearly needed more baskets. Cheek buried the tying 3 to make it 63-63 in front of a jubilant Villanova bench.
The Friars took the lead on free throws, even as they lost their shooting touch from the floor.
Former 76ers and Kansas coach Larry Brown rose from his baseline seat and clapped in encouragement at Pinkston after he drew a tough foul. Pinkston sank both from the line to make it 70-67. Pinkston kept the deficit at two on a three-point play and his huge dunk off Ty Johnson's steal tied it.
He grabbed the defensive rebound on one of Providence's final misses and finished his run with the winning layup.
Pinkston needed stitches over his left eye after taking a blow to the face late in the first half. He returned to the court wearing No. 53 instead of his usual 22 and there was no last name on the back of the jersey.
He was needed after leading scorer Maalik Wayns hit the bench with a left knee injury and needed a big ice wrap to watch the second half.
Wayns didn't think he'd be needed after a dismal first half seemingly put this one out of reach.
After Cheek hit a 3 that put Villanova ahead 28-26, the Friars closed the half on a stunning 18-2 run. Cotton was the difference. Cotton, a 42-percent 3-point shooter, was sinking shots like they were 2-footers. He nailed two straight, let Council score a layup, then buried two more 3s for a 44-30 lead.
Villanova made only 10 of 27 shots in the first half. The Friars started 10 of 16 from the floor and finished a robust 60 percent from the floor to build that 14-point lead.
It was just the latest half to forget for Villanova coach Jay Wright. The Wildcats need a stunning run to the Big East tournament championship to advance to the NCAA tournament for an eighth straight season. Two games below .500, even the NIT could be out of reach.
The second half was one to remember and shows the Wildcats might have something to play for next month.