Collin Gillespie grabbed a rebound and found Jeremiah Robinson-Earl on the fast break for a dunk to turn back a Providence rally with 55 seconds left and No. 9 Villanova held on to beat the Friars 64-60 on Saturday.
Gillespie, who also hit a pair of free throws with 28 seconds to play, scored 18 with eight rebounds for the Wildcats (16-3, 6-1 Big East). Robinson-Earl finished with 17 points, making one of two foul shots with 13 seconds left to keep it a two-possession game.
Villanova won its sixth in a row.
Nate Watson scored 18 points with nine rebounds and David Duke had 11 and 10 for Providence (11-10, 4-4). The Friars have lost four of their last five games – with all of the losses coming against ranked teams.
Villanova led 48-38 with about 12 minutes left when Providence held the Wildcats scoreless for almost four minutes to make its biggest charge.
After Maliek White missed a pair of free throws, Luwane Pipkins sank five in a row and Watson made a tip-in to give the Friars a 52-51 lead – their first advantage since the opening minutes.
But Gillespie hit a 3-pointer, then Robinson-Earl made back-to-back buckets to make it 55-50 with 6:45 left.
Providence cut it to 59-56 in the final minutes and had four possessions with a chance to tie it. Instead, Gillespie grabbed the rebound of Pipkins’ missed 3 and sent it ahead to Robinson-Earl for the dunk.
Villanova: The Wildcats felt at home on the road after spending most of the month at home. They had not played an away game since Jan. 7 at Marquette.
Providence: The Friars played three straight games against ranked opponents and lost them all. Next up is No. 13 Butler, which won 70-58 in Providence on Jan. 10.
Villanova: At St. John’s on Tuesday
Providence: At No. 13 Butler on Saturday.