Providence-Villanova Preview

Following two tough road games, Villanova is surely happy to return home even though the visitor that awaits is the last one to win at the Pavilion in Philadelphia.

The No. 11 Wildcats try to stay unbeaten at home Sunday night when they face Providence in a matchup of Big East teams coming off overtime games in their conference openers.

Villanova (12-1, 1-0) survived a test to begin its Big East slate, defeating Butler 76-73 in overtime on Tuesday in a game which neither team led by double digits. JayVaughn Pinkston missed a potential game-winning jumper at the end of regulation but sank two key free throws with three seconds left in the extra session.

It was the Wildcats' first game since suffering their only loss, 78-62 at No. 2 Syracuse last Saturday. They shot 38.0 percent from the field against the Orange in their lowest-scoring game of the season but bounced back to hit 50.0 percent Tuesday.

Pinkston highlighted the recovery, getting 22 points against Butler after scoring a season-low three versus Syracuse. He's averaging a team-best 15.8.

"It was a real test of our mental toughness. That's what I was really impressed about with our guys," coach Jay Wright told the team's official website. "Now you've got a hungry Providence team coming in here that I'm sure thought let one slip away against Seton Hall. Our mindset coming in here will be (very) important."

The Friars (10-4, 0-1) overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half Tuesday only to lose 81-80 to Seton Hall in double overtime. Bryce Cotton played all 50 minutes and had a game-high 25 points.

It was the third overtime loss of the season and second straight for Providence, which fell at No. 23 UMass 69-67 last Saturday. Seven of the team's 14 games have been decided by four points or less.

"I want to make sure to stay positive with our players," coach Ed Cooley said. "We just need to do a better job executing."

Cooley's team pulled off three-point wins in both meetings with Villanova last season, including 55-52 in Philadelphia on Cotton's 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left. Cotton has averaged 21.0 points in the schools' last three matchups and is second in the Big East this season with 19.9 per game.

"He can shoot the ball coming off a screen and he can get a shot off at any time," Wright said of Cotton. "He's really difficult to guard that way."

The Wildcats had beaten top 5 teams in their previous two home games before last season's loss to Providence, and they've since won 11 straight. However, the seven this season - by an average of 21.4 points - were all against small conference programs.

The Friars have dropped their last 28 road games against ranked teams, with the last victory coming Jan. 24, 2004, at then-No. 4 Connecticut.

Providence is shooting a Big East-worst 41.1 percent from the field, including 35.2 in two games with ranked teams - losses to then-No. 3 Kentucky and the Minutemen.

One area where the team has been much better is at the free-throw line. The Friars have hit 81.0 percent of their foul shots, highest in the nation, and makes an average of 17.6 per game for 24.2 percent of their point production.

Villanova and Providence have been playing each other since 1926, with the Wildcats holding a 52-37 edge.

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