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Villanova holds on for victory against Providence

That got closer than it probably should have.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Providence Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the more bizarre college basketball games we will see this season, the Villanova Wildcats hung on to defeat the Providence Friars, 65-59, in Providence on Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats started the game with a fury, with Phil Booth hitting three pointers each of his first three times down the court for a quick 9-0 Nova run. By the time the midway point of the first hall rolled around, the Wildcats’ lead swelled to 15 points as Booth and Eric Paschall were responsible for 18 of the first 23 points for Jay Wright’s squad.

Booth and Paschall kept rolling throughout the first 20 minutes, going into the locker room with 28 of Villanova’s 43 points as the Wildcats had a comfortable 43-25 lead at the break.

The game appeared to be a wash, but there were 20 more minutes to play, something that the Friars seemed to realize before the Wildcats did.

It was more of the same for the first 10 minutes of the second half, as Villanova’s lead was hovering right around 20. Then, something amazing happened, the Wildcats stopped scoring.

That isn’t even hyperbole. The Wildcats got to 60 points with 8:43 left in the game after a Cole Swider two. They led Providence 60-40 at this point and the game seemed to be in hand. Villanova took their foot off the gas. Providence didn’t, though. Isaiah Jackson cut the lead to 18, then Alpha Diallo, then Nate Watson, then Makai Ashton-Langford (who had a career-high 20 points), then Ashton-Langford again, then Diallo again. Suddenly, the Villanova lead went from 20 to four with just a minute left.

However, Nova went to Booth for a three point play and got it back to a seven point lead just inside a minute. The Friars had it within four again with 20 seconds to go, but seemingly didn’t realize the score and seemed to be playing for a three as 14 seconds slipped off the clock before calling a timeout still down four. Providence missed their shot and Booth went to the line again to seal the six point Villanova win.

This hasn’t been Jay Wright’s best season as a head coach, as shown yet again when his team took their foot off the gas down the stretch. It’s not something we would have seem from prior Villanova teams, and they were lucky to escape with the victory.

Booth and Paschall remained the big time players all day for Villanova, as Booth led all scorers with 23 points and Paschall recorded a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Providence falls to 10-5 on the year and 0-2 in Big East play as they’ll now hit the road to play Georgetown on Saturday. Villanova improves to 11-4 and 2-0 in Big East play and will host St. John’s Tuesday night in Philadelphia.