Phil Booth scored 23 points, 17 in the first half but also adding a crucial three-point play late, as Villanova started quickly, cooled off late and had to hold off host Providence 65-59 on Saturday in Providence, R.I.
Makai Ashton-Langford scored 20 points, 13 in the second half, in leading a feverish Providence rally that saw a 21-point deficit whittled to four in the final minute.
The Friars (10-5, 0-2 in Big East), who trailed by as many as 21 points in each half, staged a late 16-0 run.
The first nine points of that run cut the deficit to 60-49 with 5:16 left as Villanova (11-4, 2-0 in Big East), which shot 57.7 percent from the floor in the first half, went cold from the field and had multiple turnovers. The Wildcats shot 45.1 percent for the game.
The Friars had four possessions to further close the gap, but managed only one point, a free throw by Ashton-Langford, to make it 60-50 with 3:12 left.
But after Villanova’s Cole Swider missed a free throw, Ashton-Langford’s third 3-pointer of the game trimmed the deficit to 60-53 with 2:45 to play.
After a Booth turnover, Alpha Diallo’s three-point play made it 60-56 with 1:27 left, but Booth turned a layup into a three-point play of his own, including his first field goal of the second half, to make it 63-56 with 1:06 left.
Ashton-Langford hit another 3-pointer just nine seconds later, however, to make it 63-59, and Villanova again turned the ball over on a shot clock violation, giving Providence the ball back with 24 seconds left.
The Friars didn’t get off a shot off until Isaiah Jackson missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left, however, and Booth got the rebound, and then hit two free throws to finish off the win.
Eric Paschall added 13 points, 11 in the first half, and a game-high 14 rebounds for the Wildcats. Swider chipped in 10 points for Villanova, which took a double-digit lead only five minutes into the game.
Jackson added 11 points and Diallo scored 10 with seven rebounds. The Friars’ fast finish allowed them to shoot 34.5 percent from the field overall, after shooting only 29.2 percent in the first half.
Providence quickly fell behind early and trailed 43-25 at intermission. The Friars were 0 for 10 in 3-point shooting until Ashton-Langford hit their first one at the buzzer.
Booth came out firing, hitting his first three 3-pointers as the Wildcats jumped to a 9-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.
The Friars are without their second-leading scorer, freshman guard A.J. Reeves, who sustained a foot injury in a 79-78 loss to Massachusetts on Dec. 7. Reeves, who is averaging 14.2 points a game, was expected to miss four to six weeks, the school said at the time.
—Field Level Media