How 2 Bulls players went from college rivals to respected teammates
The first time Kris Dunn played against Ryan Arcidiacono in college, Dunn snapped at an inopportune time.
Dunn earned a technical foul by shoving Arcidiacono with 26.4 seconds left in a close game. Arcidiacono hit both free throws to bring his Villanova squad within 3 points, but Providence hung on to win 69-66. Both players were freshmen at the time.
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-- Mike McGraw
"Yeah, I almost lost us that game because, I don't know, me and him exchanged some words, we got into it, pushed him, got the tech," Dunn said. "They could have tied it up. We just happened to win the game. That was a hard-fought battle and coach (Ed Cooley) was all over me because we could have went into overtime because of that."
Dunn and Arcidiacono are friends and Bulls teammates now; locker room neighbors at both the United and Advocate Centers. But Chicago basketball fans may not realize the two have such a history in the Big East.
Dunn's Providence squad went 3-5 against Villanova, which isn't bad considering the Wildcats were usually ranked in the top 5 during the final two seasons.
Dunn was a two-time Big East player of the year and shared the award with Arcidiacono in 2015.
"When he was in college, he played as hard as he could every single time he stepped on that floor," Arcidiacono said of Dunn. "That's just the way Kris plays and I think you have to respect him for it. Villanova and Providence, our years, were definitely big-time rivals. Something crazy always would happen."
Dunn missed most of his sophomore season after having shoulder surgery, but his rivalry with Arcidiacono picked up where it left off a year later.
In the first meeting of their junior seasons, Arcidiacono scored 20 points, while Dunn had 17 points and 8 assists in Villanova's 74-68 win.
About a month later, there was a memorable meeting in the Big East tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Dunn piled up 22 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 2 steals and Providence threatened to pull an upset of No. 4 Villanova.
But a controversial foul call with 2.4 seconds left sent Arcidiacono to the foul line and he hit both shots to give the Wildcats a 63-61 victory. Arcidiacono got bumped by Providence forward Ben Bentil on his way to the basket. Light contact, but enough to draw the whistle.
"Providence fans, they still don't think I got fouled," Arcidiacono said. "The ref called it, so that's what happened. It's not my fault they called it."
Providence got some revenge the following season with a road victory that snapped Villanova's 22-game Big East win streak. Arcidiacono tied the game by hitting a 3-pointer with seven seconds left, before the Friars won 82-76 in overtime.
Dunn finished with 13 points, 14 assists and after the game Arcidiacono said he thought Villanova might have focused too much on trying to stop Dunn.
"That was a big-time win," Dunn said. "We were pumped up for that one. But they got us back in the semis."
There was a rematch in the Big East semifinals, this time with less controversy as Villanova won 76-68. About a week later, Dunn's college career ended when he scored 29 points in an 85-66 second-round NCAA Tournament loss to the same North Carolina team Villanova would beat in the title game.
Needless to say, Dunn and Arcidiacono have plenty to talk about in the locker room. Arcidiacono said before college, they might have met up at a basketball camp once or twice, but nothing memorable.
"It's definitely cool (being teammates), never figured it would happen," Arcidiacono said. "It's always funny just Providence-Villanova, the fan bases don't like each other and the games are always hectic. When it comes down to it, Kris and I both support the Big East and we talk smack for both of our schools and I'm sure we will when they play."
Providence was the underdog in most of those games against Villanova. So it's safe to say Dunn appreciates Arcidiacono more now than he did in his college days.
"The reason I hate him was he kept coming out with the win," Dunn said. "He's just a great competitor. I hate going against him, but now that he's on our team, I'm glad to have him. He's a great dude, great leader. I really can't say nothing bad about him, besides stealing the wins from me."