The game was a tale of two halves for Providence (10-8, 2-4 Big East). The Friars trailed 31-24 at halftime, but outscored Villanova (11-7, 2-3) 45-35 in the second half.
JayVaughn Pinkston paced the Wildcats from the start, scoring 10 of Villanova's first 13 points. The Wildcats went on a 15-2 run over a 4-minute span late in the first half.
Villanova found itself in foul trouble with 14 fouls in the first half, putting the Friars in the bonus at 10:33. But Providence could not capitalize at first, making just five of its first 14 free-throw attempts and 11 of 20 in the half. Furthermore, the Wildcats finished the half with seven players with two fouls, avoiding any major foul trouble and ending the half with the lead.
The second half was a different story for Providence, which began the period with a 13-4 run, marked by seven from Cotton.
Villanova started the half with seven turnovers on its first twelve possessions, finishing the game with 25 overall. For the Friars, Kris Dunn had two steals in the first 2 minutes of the half, contributing to a team total of 12.
The Friars and Wildcats matched each other basket for basket for the final 10 minutes. Momentum gradually shifted from the Wildcats to the Friars, who never trailed in the final 5:14.
Cotton hit a key 3-pointer with 1:02 left that appeared to seal the deal for the Friars, putting them up 63-57. After a Kris Dunn dunk widened the lead to 65-57, Villanova cut the lead to 67-62, and a Dunn technical foul that led to two Ryan Arcidiacono free throws cut the margin to 67-64 with 26.4 seconds left.
Villanova could not capitalize on the ensuing possession, however, and free throws by Dunn and Cotton put the game out of reach.
Providence led Villanova in offensive rebounds 19-9 and held the Wildcats to zero offensive boards in the first half. That came after the Wildcats tallied one offensive rebound in their last game against Pittsburgh.
Pinkston led the Wildcats with 20 points in the loss, and Darrun Hilliard added 14.