By Harry Allison
Caleb Daniels scored 20 points, Eric Dixon 15 and Collin Gillespie 14 as No. 11 Villanova beat No. 9 Providence 76-74 in a teaser for next week in New York.
“The Big East Tournament is going to be incredible,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
The Big East regular-season champion Friars (24-4, 14-3) and Wildcats (22-7, 15-4) fought all night.
A.J. Reeves hit a 3-pointer that brought the Friars within 62-60. Justin Moore hit a 3 for Villanova, and that was answered by one from Providence’s Jared Bynum.
With Providence trailing by four, Nate Watson picked up his fourth foul with 2:35 left in the game on a charge call that sent furious coach Ed Cooley on the court to argue.
Justin Minaya buried a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left that pulled Providence within 69-68.
The Wildcats survived from the free-throw line.
“How many more of these do we need,” Wright asked. “We’ve been in these on the road. We’ve been in these at home.”
Bynum scored 19 points for the Friars. Led by five each from Noah Horchler and Reeves, Providence hit 15 3-pointers.
The Friars and Wildcats could meet again next week in New York at the Big East Tournament. Those games will mean more for the NCAA tourney, where earning at least a No. 3 seed in the East Regional could keep the Wildcats in line for Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Philadelphia.
Daniels scored eight straight points and Justin Moore hit a 3 for a 62-57 lead that gave the Wildcats just the breathing room they needed down the stretch.
“I think that’s what the Big East is about,” Gillespie said.