Don't crown Villanova champions of the Big East just yet.
In an action-packed, back-and-forth game pitting a pair of top 20 teams, Providence emerged with an 82-76 overtime victory and loosened the Wildcats' stranglehold on first place in the process.
Providence forward Ben Bentil scored 10 of his game-high 31 points in overtime including four foul shots in the final 15 seconds to seal the victory. Point guard Kris Dunn was equally brilliant, scoring 13 points and dishing out 14 assists to help the 16th-ranked Friars improve to 17-3 overall and 5-2 in Big East play.
Villanova only managed to force overtime thanks to a game-tying 3-pointer from Ryan Arcidiacono with seven seconds left in regulation. Arcidiacono scored 19 points and Josh Hart had 18, but the Wildcats shot just 9 of 31 from behind the arc, committed 16 turnovers and suffered far too many defensive breakdowns.
In a season in which Providence has been one of the nation's most pleasant surprises, this is probably the Friars' most impressive victory. Villanova had won 22 straight Big East games prior to Sunday's loss and had not dropped a home game since Doug McDermott's Creighton team won in Philadelphia two years ago.
Villanova entered Sunday's game with at least a two-game lead over every other Big East foe, but now that margin has been cut in half. The Friars, Xavier, Creighton and Georgetown are all each within a game of the Wildcats in the loss column in the race for the Big East title.
Can Providence be a serious threat to Villanova in the league title race? It's possible if the Friars get enough contributions from players besides Bentil and Dunn, but their upcoming schedule is daunting. In the next four weeks, they'll face Xavier and Georgetown twice and also host the revenge-hungry Wildcats.
- - - - - - -