Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Hilliard's 24 points with six 3-pointers led all scorers and Pinkston added 16 points and eight rebounds, including the 700th of his career, to help the Wildcats (26-2, 13-2 Big East) clinch at least a share of a second straight Big East title.
"These are two guys who never thought of giving in on Villanova," said Wildcats coach Jay Wright. "It really is special for me because of where they have been and what they have brought us from."
Ryan Arcidiacono netted 13 points, and Kris Jenkins and Phil Booth added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Friars (19-9, 9-6) never led despite getting 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting from Tyler Harris. LaDontae Henton and Kyron Cartwright each scored 12 points, while Kris Dunn was limited to four points.
Providence pulled within six several times in the opening moments of the second half but could not overcome Villanova's long-range shooting.
Hilliard hit a pair of free throws and went on to score 14 points during a 25-6 Wildcats run to put the game away. He scored the first four points and later netted nine in a row with three shots from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats led by as many as 30 when Jenkins hit a 3 with 4:20 to play. Even after Hilliard and Pinkston were taken out of the game to standing ovations with three minutes left, Villanova kept the pressure on with 3s from Josh Hart on back-to-back possessions.
"It's amazing how teams around the country and all the speaking heads, who are supposed to be professional, but they aren't talking about Villanova as a No. 1 seed," said Friars coach Ed Cooley. "They're playing as well as anybody in the country and have a chance to make a magical, magical run in March."
Villanova scored the first nine points of the game with a sloppy start from Providence. The Friars committed five turnovers in the first four minutes before a timeout and Cartwright jumper got them on track.
The Wildcats scored 14 points off nine Providence turnovers in the first half, but the Friars used a late surge to narrow their deficit. Ben Bentil's 3 with two minutes to play started a 7-0 run that cut Villanova's lead to 34-25 at the break.
Notes: Villanova has won 26 games in a row at The Pavilion since losing to Providence on Feb. 2, 2013 ... Providence never led ... The Wildcats shot 13-for-25 from 3-point range and went 26-of-31 from the free-throw line ... Villanova's next game is at Xavier on Saturday while Providence will host Marquette on Sunday.