Unlikely hero helps Villanova avenge its lone Big East loss

Jeff Eisenberg
Unlikely hero helps Villanova avenge its lone Big East loss
Unlikely hero helps Villanova avenge its lone Big East loss

In 22 previous games this season, Villanova forward Darryl Reynolds had never scored more than six points.

He more than tripled his season high Saturday in the Wildcats' impressive 72-60 road victory at 11th-ranked Providence.

With Villanova's starting center Daniel Ochefu sidelined for a third straight game as a result of a concussion, Reynolds started in his place and scored 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting. Most of Reynolds' baskets came around the the rim on layups, tip-ins and deft back-to-the-basket post moves. 

 

Nine of Reynolds' points came in the opening five minutes of the second half, enabling Villanova to extend its lead to 15 and give itself enough of a cushion to survive Providence's attempt to rally.  Reynolds also had 10 rebounds and two blocks, helping the Wildcats remain alone in first place in the Big East and avenge their lone league loss of the season.

The emergence of Reynolds is an encouraging sign for a Villanova team thought to have little meaningful interior depth behind Ochefu. It won't be necessary for Reynolds to play 36 minutes again unless Ochefu gets hurt, but Jay Wright should now have ample confidence in the 6-foot-8 forward to give him 15-20 minutes off the bench in a meaningful game.

What was also encouraging for Villanova was the way it defended Providence's two stars.

When the Friars upset the Wildcats in Philadelphia last month, forward Ben Bentil had 31 points and point guard Kris Dunn had 13 points and 14 assists. Bentil shook off a lingering ankle injury to score 20 points on Saturday, but Dunn was far less effective. He shot only 4-for-15 from the field and finished with twice as many turnovers as assists because Villanova clogged the lane and kept him out of transition. 

Reynolds was Villanova's primary interior scoring threat, but he had plenty of help from the perimeter. Ryan Arcidiacono had 16 points and Josh Hard had 14 as the Wildcats won despite shooting just 5-for-22 from behind the arc.

On one late possession after Providence had briefly closed within five, Reynolds saw something he may never have seen before this season — a double team in the post. He took advantage, throwing a pinpoint kick-out pass to an open Arcidiacono for a 3-pointer that snuffed out the Friars' rally.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!