PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Ben Bentil played for Providence despite an injured ankle, scoring 18 of his 20 points in the second half against No. 3 Villanova.
But it wasn't enough to overcome the Wildcats, with the No. 11 Friars falling 72-60 on Saturday.
It's the second straight loss for Providence (18-6, 6-5 Big East) and third in the past four games. The Friars are just 2-4 in league games at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, which had a season-best 12,883 in attendance.
Providence beat Villanova in overtime on Jan. 24.
"I think you need to have a simple message to your team. It's a long season, but we're still in good shape. It's tough with the way we've played lately," said coach Ed Cooley. "We don't need anybody being negative. It's not the end of the world because we lost a basketball game. It's a journey and you teach and encourage and we'll look to continue to improve."
Villanova was clearly ready to avenge the loss, taking leads of 10-0 and 29-10. Bentil didn't start after injuring his right ankle at DePaul on Tuesday night. The Big East's leading scorer (19.7 points) rode the stationary bike when the game tipped off and checked in at 17:49.
He led the comeback effort in the second half for Providence, logging 34 minutes and finishing 6 of 11 from the field. He was 2 of 5 from 3-point range.
"Not having Ben at the start was a big, big deal for us, but he said he was ready to go if needed. He toughed it out," Cooley said. "He hadn't practice since leaving the floor the other day, but a talent like that is tough to keep off the floor. If he wants to roll."
Villanova coach Jay Wright said it was noticeable that the Bentil was not the same player who went off for 31 points and 13 rebounds during their first meeting.
"We're going to talk about a lot of great things we did, but we're not dismissing the fact their best player and leading scorer was not at 100 percent. But that's basketball," Wright said.
Darryl Reynolds led Villanova (20-3, 10-1) with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Ryan Arcidiacono added 16 points to help the Wildcats earn their 12th victory in 13 games.
Villanova led by as many as 17 in the second half before watching its lead cut to four with 2:59 to play on a 3-pointer by Bentil. Earlier in the half, he swished a 3 as part of a 14-4 run that brought the Friars within 56-50 with 5:55 remaining.
Villanova won the rebounding tally 46-29.
Kris Dunn finished with 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting and six turnovers. He struggled with 5-for-20 shooting in the 77-70 loss to DePaul.
"There are some things we can do to help him. Right now he needs our help. We've been on his shoulders for a long time," Cooley said.
Villanova: Wildcats F Daniel Ochefu missed his third straight game with a concussion he sustained in practice. He remains under the university's concussion protocol. ... Villanova is now 17-0 when holding opponents under 70 points.
Providence: Drops to 4-3 against Top 25 teams this season. ...The Friars recognized the program's 1975-76 team during a timeout in the first half. The team, which included current radio broadcaster Joe Hassett, went 21-11.
Providence: Travels to Marquette on Wednesday.
Villanova: Travels to DePaul on Tuesday.