PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Ed Croswell scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and 24th-ranked Providence earned its 20th victory of the season, holding on for a 85-72 win over Villanova on Saturday.
Bryce Hopkins added 19 points and 12 rebounds. Noah Locked finished with 16 points. Croswell connected on two late free throws to notch the 1,000th point of his career.
“When we first recruited him I thought he’d have 1,000 fouls before 1,000 points. I think his teammates would agree with that,” Friars coach Ed Cooley said of Croswell, a fifth-year senior who began his career at LaSalle. “Truthfully, I didn’t see that. I saw more of a defensive-minded guy who was just developing. … It’s been an honor to see as someone who has worked so hard and competes at an elite level. He’s earned it.”
The Friars (20-7, 12-4 Big East) have recorded 20 or more wins in seven of Cooley’s 12 seasons. They improved to 15-0 at home, including 8-0 in conference play.
Croswell, who fouled out in the final minute of the game, thought he’d come up short of the 1,000-point benchmark when he initially got back to the bench.
“I was yelling at the ref. I was like, ‘Please, call the foul on someone else. I need two more points for 1,000,’” Croswell said.
He was happy to find out his math was off when his achievement was announced to the sold out Amica Mutual Pavilion crowd.
Now with just two more home games left before the Big East tournament, Croswell said he’s taking extra time to enjoy it
“I’m cherishing every moment. I’m staring into the crowd. This is something special that I’ve been a part of,” he said. “I’ve made a new home. I want to soak in every moment.”
Villanova’s Eric Dixon had 18 points and eight rebounds. Justin Moore added 17 points.
Trailing by five at the half, the Wildcats (13-14, 7-9) took their first lead of the game with 17:09 remaining following Cam Whitmore’s steal and dunk to cap a 9-3 spurt.
Providence responded with a 14-4 run over the next six minutes to get its lead back up to 54-44. Villanova missed 9 of 10 shots during the stretch.
Villanova found its shot and got within 63-61 on a layup by Caleb Daniels with 4:53 left.
Providence got a cushion at 70-65, but was in trouble with the shot clock winding down when Devin Carter drained a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Providence took a 36-31 edge into halftime.
The Friars scored 20 points in the paint during the opening 20 minutes and led by as many as 14. But they settled for perimeter shots late in the half and were outscored 13-4 over the final 5:46 before the break.
After falling four spots following a loss at St. Johns last week, the Friars secured their spot in the poll for this upcoming week, going 2-0 with a double-overtime win over 18th-ranked Creighton.
Villanova: Saturday began a tough five-game stretch to close the regular season, featuring four ranked opponents.
Providence: The Friars avoided what could have been a letdown coming off their win over Creighton.
Villanova: At No. 16 Xavier on Tuesday.
Providence: At No.20 UConn on Wednesday.
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