David Duke made a tiebreaking tip-in with 2.8 seconds left on Saturday and Providence held on after blowing a 20-point lead to beat No. 10 Villanova 54-52.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had an open look at a 3-pointer after a long inbounds pass, but the shot hit the front of the rim, and the buzzer sounded before Jermaine Samuels tipped it in.
Already without point guard Collin Gillespie, who tore his MCL on Wednesday, the Big East champion Wildcats lost backup Justin Moore to an ankle injury in the first half.
Duke and Nate Watson scored 20 points apiece, and Noah Horchler had 10 points and 13 rebounds for Providence (13-12, 9-10 Big East). The Friars have won five of their last seven games against ranked teams.
Samuels scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half, making back-to-back layups to start a 14-2 run and adding the last five points of the rally that gave the Wildcats (16-5, 11-4) a 50-49 lead with less than three minutes left.
Duke made one of two free throws to tie it, and then sank a floater with just over a minute left to make it 52-50. After Samuels made a pair of free throws, Jared Bynum fired up a jumper that bounced off the rim, and Duke tipped it in.
Villanova coach Jay Wright called timeout, then changed his play after Providence called timeout. Robinson-Earl got free from the right side, but the ball bounced high off the rim and by the time Samuels got his hand on it, it was too late.
Robinson-Earl had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats, who clinched the Big East regular-season title with a victory on Wednesday night.
PC led 38-18 in the first before Villanova scored the first 11 points of the second. The Friars held a 47-36 advantage with nine minutes left before Samuels scored nine points during the rally that gave the Wildcats their first lead since the opening basket of the game.
OUT OF ACTION
Gillespie, who averaged 14 points and 4.6 assists, was on the bench in street clothes, wearing a large black brace on his left leg; Providence coach Ed Cooley came over to give him a quick hug before the game.
Moore started at point guard but he left the game with 5:37 left in the first half after getting his legs tangled with Duke. He joined Gillespie on the bench for the second half, wearing a boot.
With Gillespie already out, the Wildcats could be down to their third-string point guard if Moore’s ankle injury is serious. That might not affect their NCAA tournament seed, but they will need to find a new ball distributor if they are going to go far.
SECOND HALF WOES
Providence took an 11-point lead into halftime in its last game, against St. John’s on Wednesday. The Red Storm outscored PC 51-26 in the second, when the Friars missed all nine of their 3-point attempts.
Both teams move on to the Big East tournament. Villanova will have the No. 1 seed.
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