By Sally Fahey
Jared Bynum hit a key jumper and two free throws late to help No. 23 Providence defeat Villanova 70-65 on Sunday.
The game was played at the Wells Fargo Center and ended about an hour before the Eagles hosted the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game across the street at Lincoln Financial Field. There were some Eagles chants and plenty of green jerseys throughout the arena.
Ed Croswell scored 14 points, Bryce Hopkins had 13 and Devin Carter chipped in 12 for the Friars (17-5, 9-2 Big East). Providence trailed by seven midway in the second half before rallying.
Cam Whitmore had 21 points to lead Villanova (10-11, 4-6), which returned to the court after an eight-day layoff. Eric Dixon added 14 points and Caleb Daniels and Brandon Slater had 10 apiece for the Wildcats.
Justin Moore returned to action for Villanova for the first time since suffering a torn Achilles’ in Villanova’s 50-44 Elite Eight victory over Houston last spring.
The home crowd roared when Moore was introduced last in the Wildcats’ starting lineup and cheered again when the 6-foot-4 senior guard made his first basket on a left-handed layup three minutes into the game. Moore finished with five points.
“It was great to be out there with my teammates,” Moore said. “They were excited for me, and I was excited. We just wanted to focus on playing harder than the other team and competing.”
Whitmore’s corner 3 broke a 42-all tie and started a 7-0 Villanova second-half run. The spurt ended with an inside basket by Whitmore that made it 49-42 with 10:41 to play, matching the Wildcats’ largest lead to that point.
But then Providence got hot from long range. The Friars missed their first 11 tries from beyond the arc before finding their strokes.