Villanova-Providence Preview

The Associated Press

Once again, Villanova is tasked with having to bounce back from a humbling loss to the Big East's best team.

The No. 9 Wildcats face a quick turnaround Tuesday night on the road against a Providence team they beat by 30 earlier this season.

Villanova (22-3, 10-2) saw its six-game win streak end Sunday with a 101-80 loss at then-No. 18 Creighton. The Wildcats fell one-half game behind the first-place Bluejays.

The result was much too similar to Villanova's 96-68 home loss to Creighton on Jan. 20 for coach Jay Wright.

"They're just a tough matchup for us," Wright said. "Our style of play and their style of play kind of leads to these kinds of games."

Wright put his team through a film session of the defeat Monday as his team came straight to Providence (17-9, 7-6) afterward.

"We want to learn from it," Wright told Villanova's official website. "We were the ones there, so we own it."

His Wildcats were unbeaten since the earlier loss to the Bluejays and will be favored in this one after leading by 24 at halftime of a 91-61 home rout of the Friars on Jan. 5.

Villanova, though, has dropped its last two visits to Providence, including a 69-66 defeat Jan. 19, 2013.

"Providence is playing good basketball and is a good team," Wright said. "I think our conference right now has a lot of teams playing well."

The Friars are tied for fifth place after ending a three-game slide with Saturday's 84-61 rout of DePaul. Bryce Cotton led six players scoring in double figures with 22 points.

"I've been challenging our players about staying in the moment in our attitude and reflecting on opportunities and today was one of those opportunities," coach Ed Cooley said.

The Wildcats will try to fare better against another one of the nation's top scorers after allowing Doug McDermott to score 39 on Sunday. Cotton is second in the Big East behind McDermott with 21.2 points per game.

Cotton scored 25 the last time these teams met but the contest was never close. Villanova scored the first nine points, made 10 of its first 11 shots and enjoyed a 20-0 first-half edge in bench points in a dominant performance.

The Wildcats made 14 of 26 3-pointers in that game, and have made 26 of 48 in their last two. The other end of the court was the problem Sunday, as the Bluejays' 64.2 percent shooting was the highest allowed by Villanova since Wright became coach in 2001.

"At this point in the season, it's not what you are," Wright said. "You are what you finish. We've got a lot of work to do to see what we are."

Providence may not be in position to take advantage of any defensive deficiencies as the Big East's worst shooting team at 41.7 percent. The Friars, however, are leading the nation at 78.8 percent from the foul line.

Wildcats leading scorer James Bell has a puzzling history against Providence, fouling out with six points in five minutes in last month's matchup. Bell, who averages 16.1 points in 2013-14, has totaled 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting with 10 fouls in three other starts versus the Friars.

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