Friar Basketball

Previewing Nova: Jay Wright Praises Cartwright

Jay Wright Fist Pump

Almost a year to the day, Providence traveled to Philadelphia last season and upset #4 Villanova behind 31 points from emerging sophomore Ben Bentil.

The loss snapped Villanova’s 32-game home winning streak, and it marked one of the few defeats Jay Wright’s club has suffered in the last calendar year.

Much has changed since last January. Villanova went from answering endless questions about their inability to reach the Sweet 16, to National Champions behind perhaps the most clutch shot in NCAA Tournament history, when Kris Jenkins knocked down a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the title game against Carolina.

The national championship changed the perception of both Villanova and the Big East. Jenkins’ shot gave Wright his first national title, while the Big East was legitimized with a national championship in just its third season following realignment.

When Providence returns to Villanova today they’ll square off against a team that is once again #1 in the country — a team that has gone 36-3 since their loss to PC.

Villanova can score and defend. They are shooting nearly 50% from the field as a team in conference play, while holding opponents to under 40% shooting and 27% from 3. Josh Hart may lead the National Player of the Year race, Jenkins is a big shot taker and maker, while sophomore Jalen Brunson has emerged into a leader at the point.

PC’s point guard is where Nova has likely focused their game plan in the five days leading up to Saturday’s game (the Wildcats are coming off of a 30-point drubbing over Seton Hall Monday night).

Wright had high praise for Kyron Cartwright leading up to this one: “They have great team length, four guys who are 6-7 or 6-8 along with (Kyron) Cartwright, who is playing as well as any guard in the country. That’s why they give us problems, that’s why they beat us here last year.”

“It’s amazing how far he has come as an offensive player and really as a shooter. By the end of last year he was getting more aggressive driving the ball. He’s really shooting it now (too). Last year he watched Kris Dunn be a primary ball-handler, scoring while he also got other guys involved. Now he has a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and that’s what makes him so difficult to guard.”

Cartwright has been terrific in Providence’s last two games — victories over Seton Hall and Georgetown — and was a key cog in last season’s upset at the Wells Fargo Center, scoring 13 points in 26 minutes. When Kris Dunn fouled out late, Cartwright ran the show in the closing minutes of overtime and put Villanova away with a lob to Bentil late.

Cartwright also had 14 points in last season’s Big East Tournament Semifinal against Villanova — nearly sparking a second-half comeback.

PC and Villanova have met in the last two Big East Tournament Semifinals, and Friar fans won’t soon forget the 2015 game. Providence tied the game late on a Jalen Lindsey steal and Dunn layup before Ben Bentil was called for a questionable foul in the closing seconds.

Yet, despite their Big East Tournament runs ending at the hands of Villanova, there’s little bitterness in Providence in the new era of the “Big East Against the World.” The league continues to thrive with Villanova leading it.

Here’s an exciting look back at their championship run last season.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar


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