Villanova defeats Providence, 74-72

Despite stitches over his left eye, JayVaughn Pinkston dominated down the stretch for 'Nova. He scored the Wildcats' last nine points, including the winning layup with 23.5 seconds left to play.
Despite stitches over his left eye, JayVaughn Pinkston dominated down the stretch for 'Nova. He scored the Wildcats' last nine points, including the winning layup with 23.5 seconds left to play. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 08, 2012

The night for Villanova was going from grim to gruesome. The Wildcats, on their home court, were trailing Providence by 19 points with 14 minutes to play. Maalik Wayns, their top scorer and best player, was sitting glumly on the bench with an ice pack on his left knee.

But freshman JayVaughn Pinkston then played as if he wanted to avoid losing to the Friars, one of only two teams below the Wildcats in the Big East standings, at all costs.

Pinkston scored Villanova's last nine points, including a driving layup with 23.5 seconds to play, to lift the Wildcats to an improbable 74-72 victory over the Friars before an ecstatic yet disbelieving crowd at the Pavilion.

The win broke a three-game losing streak for Villanova (11-13 overall, 4-8 Big East), and handed the Friars (13-12, 2-10) their 21st consecutive road loss in conference play. It was the Cats' largest comeback since they rallied from 21 down against LSU on Dec. 6, 2007, at what was then called the Wachovia Center.

It was a signature moment for Pinkston, who sat out the entire 2010-11 season because of a university suspension resulting from an off-campus incident. He finished with career highs of 28 points and 14 rebounds, and basked afterward in the chants of "JVP, JVP" from the student section.

"My team needed me, so I just had to step up, and that's what I did," Pinkston said. "When one goes down, everybody just has to step up. Today was my night. I just had to step up."

As for his scoring, which consisted mostly of power drives in the lane, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Pinkston said it was a matter of "just going out there and doing what we do."

Villanova coach Jay Wright said he was happy with Pinkston's performance, especially his 8-for-9 night from the free-throw line.

"They were all big free throws, and it just shows you how hard this kid has worked," Wright said. "He's so coachable it's amazing, whatever you tell him to do. He's got the greatest attitude. So I was really happy for him."

It looked as if it would be a difficult night for the Wildcats after Wayns, their leading scorer with an 18.4-point average, left the game for good with the knee injury. At the time, there were 11 minutes, 31 seconds to play and his team was trailing, 60-49.

Wright said that he didn't know the extent of the injury but that Wayns would undergo an MRI Wednesday.

The Wildcats tied it at 63 on a three-ball by Cheek with 5:17 to play, and after the Friars went back on top, 72-67, with 1:47 left, Pinkston converted a three-point play and dunked off a steal by Ty Johnson to make it 72-72 with 1:15 to play.

After Vincent Council missed a jumper for the Friars, Pinkston came back and drove to give the Wildcats the lead. On Providence's final possession, Gerard Coleman's runner was blocked by 'Nova's Maurice Sutton, and Bryce Cotton's closing attempt from beyond the arc went off the rim.

"It's just a team that's learning how to play together," Wright said. "We just did a great job - finally - offensively of just finding the right guys and making the extra passes and playing aggressive defensively. It's just experience. It's great for our young guys to go through this."


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494, jjuliano@phillynews.com or @joejulesinq on Twitter.

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