|2:30 ET, Mar 6, 2021
Alumni Hall, Providence, Rhode Island
No. 10 Villanova faces Providence without Collin Gillespie
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Villanova is certainly capable of vying for another national championship.
Without Collin Gillespie, the task will be much more daunting.
The No. 10-ranked Wildcats (16-4, 11-3) clinched their seventh Big East regular-season title in eight seasons with a 72-60 victory over No. 14 Creighton on Wednesday.
But they likely lost Gillespie, one of the top players in the country, for an extended period of time with a left knee injury. Gillespie was hurt in the first half and didn't return.
Gillespie obviously won't play when the Wildcats complete their regular season Saturday afternoon at Providence. Trainer Dan Erickson wasn't optimistic immediately after the game against Creighton.
"We're not going to speculate, but (Erickson is) not saying he'll be fine," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. "So, this is all very bittersweet."
Gillespie has developed into a stellar player maybe more than any other Wildcat in program history.
"There's probably not been one player who has had the impact on one team here that Collin has had for us," Wright said. "He's our spiritual leader, work ethic leader, character-wise he's our leader. He's tough to replace. We're going to have to grow up real quick. Guys are going to have to step up, and I think they will."
Justin Moore stepped up with 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl produced 14 points and 14 rebounds and Brandon Slater added 11 points off the bench.
Without Gillespie, the Wildcats will continue to need extra production from everyone.
"Definitely, I could see it right away," Wright said of the team's reaction when Gillespie was injured. "They're tough guys, but they were down. Then they started pumping each other up."
Providence will hope to avoid its third loss in the last four games when it hosts Villanova.
In their most recent game, the Friars (12-12, 8-10) fell 81-67 on Wednesday at St. John's.
Nate Watson led the way with 19 points and three blocked shots, David Duke added 16 points and Jared Bynum had 13.
"Fifty-one points in the second half -- that was absolutely disgusting to see," Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. "We had no urgency. We had no pop. Very, very disappointed in the group."
The Friars were just 4-of-23 from beyond the arc and could never seem to get in sync offensively to make a late run.
"It was like a different team showed up in the second half," Cooley said. "We didn't fight in the second half at all."
Providence is guaranteed of a losing conference record for the second time in the last three seasons. With the amount of talent compiled for this season, there had been plenty of optimism.
But in this unique COVID-19 season, it hasn't gone exactly as planned.
Still, there's one more opportunity against a quality opponent in Villanova before the conference tournament.
"Our games are running down," Cooley said. "There are always times in the season where you're going to have a stinker, but you've got right, nine, 20 games left. We're down to our last game."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 4, 2021