|11:30 AM PT12:30 PM MT1:30 PM CT2:30 PM ET7:30 PM GMT3:30 PM 北京时间12:30 PM MST2:30 PM EST, Jan 23, 2021
Finneran Pavilion, Villanova, Pennsylvania
Unfazed by layoff, No. 3 Villanova faces Providence next
Villanova head coach Jay Wright didn't know what to expect from his team last Tuesday.
He still doesn't.
The No. 3-ranked Wildcats defeated Seton Hall 76-74 in their first game in 27 days due to COVID-19 pauses. Villanova (9-1, 4-0 Big East) will now be looking for its eighth straight against visiting Providence on Saturday afternoon.
"I didn't have any expectations -- I just wanted to see what happened," Wright said. "There was some good, some bad. It's great to get a win. I'm happy for our guys. Seton Hall is a very good team. I'm happy that we survived."
Since the season began, the Wildcats have idled three times. For a team with such high expectations, it has been a monumental challenge, though the players have proven resilient.
Against Seton Hall, Collin Gillespie led the way with 22 points, and Cole Swider hit the go-ahead free throw with 1.9 seconds left.
Also drawing praise from Wright was Jermaine Samuels, who had 20 points and nine rebounds.
"I am truly amazed by Jermaine Samuels," Wright said. "He literally practiced one day. Had COVID and couldn't practice until (Monday). To come out and be able to play like that is truly incredible. Collin Gillespie had four days of practice and played 38 minutes. Those guys' stamina and Cole hitting a big free throw at the end was huge."
The Wildcats will continue to navigate through this surreal season but are undoubtedly thriving.
"Definitely mentally," Samuels said of the challenges. "Being out for so long definitely took a toll, not just on me, the team in general. But it definitely made us closer."
Providence will look for its second consecutive road victory over a quality opponent.
The Friars (8-6, 4-4) defeated No. 11 Creighton, 74-70, on Wednesday thanks in large part to Nate Watson's career-best 29 points.
"You have to continue to drive hope and inspiration into your guys," Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. "When you have players like Nate and David (Duke) on the floor, you are going to give yourself an opportunity night in and night out."
Three other Providence players also scored in double digits: Alyn Breed (15), Duke (12) and Jimmy Nichols (10).
"My teammates and coaches are always on me, especially in practice," Breed said. "They always give me the confidence to play hard and play my game."
Providence almost certainly wouldn't have won without Watson's 12-of-19 shooting in 35 hard-fought minutes. Controlling the paint against Villanova, one of the top defensive teams in the country, will be a must if it's going to come up with another difficult road victory.
Providence held Creighton to 4-of-23 shooting from beyond the arc.
"We definitely had a lot of energy," Watson said. "I'm in charge of getting the guys hyped up before the game, so we came out blazing. We wanted to throw the first punch."
"We've had some losses that didn't go our way -- we've had some tough breaks," Cooley said, adding that "the basketball gods were on our side."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 21, 2021