Big East: Best Team Survives vs. Best Player

New York

NEW YORK—Kris Dunn left no doubt who was the best player in the Big East, despite Jay Wright imploring the Wildcats to surround him. He outdueled the Big East’s co-MVP Ryan Arcidiacono, scoring 22 points while Arcidiacono had only one basket but hit two free throws with 3 seconds left for the 63-61 Villanova win.

Reporters were quick to ask Providence coach Ed Cooley about the final call that put Arciadiacono at the line.

“We have the best referees in the country in the Big East, we are known for that. It doesn’t come down to one play. It was a 50-50 call that did not go our way,” said Cooley. While kind to the referees, he proceeded to leave no doubt how he felt about Dunn sharing the co-Player of the Year honors with Arciadiacono. Dunn was ranked third at to 16th for Arciadiacono, and Dunn is the only Big East player considered a lock to go in the first round of the NBA draft. “I believe Dunn is the best player in the conference, and there is not a close second.”

Despite Arciadiacono’s struggles, by early in the second half Villanova looked ready to pull away again, just like they have in their last two games won by a margin of 194-117.

Then Dunn took it to another level, pulling Providence to within 47-42. On the next trip Dunn’s defender fell to the floor on a Dunn crossover, forcing other Villanova defenders to run at him. Dunn fired under the basket for his eight assists. On the next trip, Dunn wove through three players only to get to Daniel Ochefu, who already had five blocked shots, at which point Dunn simply went to his left hand to kiss the glass for his 17th point to make it 47-44.

Dunn’s ninth assist set up a three-pointer to get it back to 56-52.

Co-MVP Ryan Arcidiacono struggled against Dunn, scoing only one basket and dishing out two assists. However, he had plenty of help as always from the balanced Villanova team. Ochefu dominated the boards in addition to all the blocked shots, and did it without a single foul until the closing couple of minutes. Meanwhile, his Providence counterpart Carson Desrosiers committed four fouls by the middle of the second half that forced him to sit. Josh Hart lit it up again from behind the arc. Darrun Hilliard was hard to stop but fouled out with 12 points.

Despite the other half of the best duo in the Big East, LaDontae Henton, struggling throughout, Dunn’s drive to the basket with 16.5 seconds left gave him 20 points and cut the lead to 61-59. Providence then knocked the Villanova inbound to Dunn who laid it in for his 22nd point to tie the score 61-61.

Then Arcidiacono won the game at the charity stripe.