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Bynum leads No. 23 Providence past Villanova 70-65

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jared Bynum scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime and 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 Philadelphia 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.

“It shows our guys are resilient and can compete when we’re not at our best,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “So, that was really good for us.”

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.

The Wildcats couldn’t contain Bynum down the stretch.

“Phenomenal. He took over the game,” Cooley said.

Providence was clinging to a one-point lead in the final minute when Bynum converted a turnaround, step-back jumper off one foot with 24.7 seconds to play.

“It is not a shot I normally take, but we practice those shots for moments like that,” Bynum said. “It came in handy.”

After a Villanova turnover, Bynum was fouled and made both free throws during a one-and-one situation with 13 seconds left to clinch the victory.

“I’ve been in situations like that my whole life,” he said.

It was the second game back in the lineup after missing four due to an abdominal strain for Bynum, who transferred to Providence from Saint Joseph’s.

“It says we’re a pretty good team and have strong aspirations for what we’re trying to do,” Bynum said of the win.

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.

“I said, ‘We’re going to make 3s,’” Cooley said about his message.

He was right.

Hopkins’ 3 with 6:44 left put the Friars in front 58-55. Bynum came up big during that stretch, scoring 10 points during a Providence run over 4:44 on a pair of 3s and two layups.

The Friars’ advantage increased to six when Bynum and Noah Locke hit 3s on consecutive trips down the floor from the opposite sides of the court, making it 64-58 with 3:57 left. But Villanova scored five of the next seven, capped by another Whitmore 3, to pull within 66-65 with 1:54 remaining before Bynum sealed it.

“They’re a good team,” Villanova first-year coach Kyle Neptune said. “They’re not going to lay down for you. Unfortunately, they were able to make tough shots.”

MOORE RETURNS

Moore was projected to be a late first-round or early second-round pick in last year’s NBA draft before his injury. He will have to shake off rust and show scouts he is healthy to get back to that point. But there definitely were good signs for Moore, including when he drove hard to the basket for a bucket with 4 ½ minutes left in the first half.

Moore had four points, three rebounds and an assist in the opening 20 minutes to help the Wildcats take a 31-28 lead at the break.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars have a big matchup at No. 13 Xavier on Wednesday as they look to repeat as Big East Conference regular-season champs. They started play on Sunday a half-game behind the Musketeers in the Big East. Win or lose, Providence is in good position to reach its seventh NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years under Cooley. The Friars also have the talent for a second straight trip to the Sweet 16.

Villanova: With Moore back and Villanova looking energized, the Wildcats will look to climb out of the middle of the pack and up the Big East standings. They have won seven of the last nine regular-season conference titles and could make a late-season push with Moore back. All of those championships, of course, were under former coach Jay Wright, who surprisingly retired after last season.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Villanova: Jordan Longino (left hamstring) missed his sixth straight game. The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 6.2 points.

UP NEXT

Providence: At No. 13 Xavier on Wednesday.

Villanova: At No. 16 Marquette on Wednesday.

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