Collin Gillespie from 3. Collin Gillespie in the post. Collin Gillespie from everywhere, to beat Providence

PROVIDENCE, RI - FEBRUARY 15: Villanova Wildcats guard Collin Gillespie (2) avoids Providence Friars guard Al Durham (1) and takes a three point shot during a college basketball game between Villanova Wildcats and Providence Friars on February 15 2022, at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, RI. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
By Dana O'Neil Feb 16, 2022 51
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — There was a time, way back in 2018, when Collin Gillespie was goofy. Or maybe not goofy but … playful? Definitely quotable. He was a freshman when Villanova won the national championship that year. He got minutes but not enough to draw a crowd when the locker room doors swung open to the media during the Final Four. Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels sat off in the corner and told stories, mostly at the expense of their upperclassmen teammates. If you wanted a little levity, a little less ‘Villanova basketball’- and ‘attitude’-centric conversation, you had a better shot with them than with the older guys who had swallowed gallons of Nova Kool-Aid by then.

There is no cracking Gillespie now. Seconds after his coach talked about Gillespie as if he were the reincarnation of Willis Reed, explaining how the guard just played 37 minutes of a fiercely tough 89-84 top-10 road game on a swollen ankle, the super senior was asked to describe just how gruesome the injury was. He did not wince. He did not think. He might not have blinked, actually. “I’m OK,’’ he said with a shrug. “I’m able to play through it.’’

For Providence on Tuesday, and the rest of the Big East, he is equally — and frustratingly — impossible to crack on the court. Two hours before the doors opened at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and three and a half hours before tipoff, students started spilling out of their cars, lining up inside the vestibule to find their seats for just the second top 10 game at the relic of an arena.