PHILADELPHIA (AP) Josh Hart saw an opportunity to drive with the ball and kept attacking the basket instead of shooting jumpers.
Hart scored 25 points, Kris Jenkins had 19 and No. 1 Villanova beat Providence 78-68 on Saturday.
The defending national champion Wildcats (19-1, 7-1 Big East) have won five straight since their only loss at Butler on Jan. 4 temporarily knocked them out of the No. 1 spot in The AP Top 25.
Hart tied a season-low with only two 3-pointers attempted and made both. He scored seven of his 10 baskets on layups. Villanova only tried 17 shots from 3-point range, making seven. The Wildcats entered the game averaging 25 attempts from beyond the arc.
“They do a great job of taking away 3s,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Providence. “Our guys did a good job of reading the defense and not taking contested 3s. Josh is as relentless at attacking the basket as anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Hart finished 10 of 16 from the field.
“Just be aggressive is something Coach always says,” Hart said. “If they step up, make the right pass, If they don’t, you score.”
Rodney Bullock had 17 points and Jalen Lindsey added 14 for Providence (13-8, 3-5).
The Friars were coming off consecutive wins over Seton Hall and Georgetown but couldn’t compete with Villanova.
An 8-0 run to start the second half gave Villanova its biggest lead to that point, 43-31. Mikal Bridges got it started with a layup and jumper, Jenkins hit a jumper and Hart made another layup.
“Villanova took advantage of every mistake we made,” Friars coach Ed Cooley said. “The game was lost on the first five possessions of the second half.”
Jalen Brunson and Jenkins nailed consecutive 3s from almost the same spot to extend it to 60-43 midway through the second half and the Wildcats led by 20 at one point.
But Providence wouldn’t go away. Lindsey hit three straight 3s to cap a 13-2 run that got the Friars within 66-57 with 5:05 left.
Then Villanova scored the next three baskets, including a nifty, driving layup by Brunson to put it away.
“They have a great defensive team, they’re gritty and tough,” Cooley said.
Hart hit a 3-pointer to start the scoring and Villanova never trailed. The Friars tied it at 12 midway through the first half before Villanova went on a 10-0 run capped by Bridges’ 3-pointer.
Providence: G Kyron Cartwright scored 12 points before he left the game with a stomach bug in the second half. … Isaiah Jackson also scored 12. … The Friars are 2-14 all-time against the top-ranked team. … They are 38-60 vs. Villanova. .. . The teams meet again on Feb. 1 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Villanova: Bridges had 15 points and Brunson added 13. … The team shot 51.7 percent (30 for 58). … The Wildcats played the second of four games at the home of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, who host New Jersey on Saturday night. They are 15-2 at the Wells Fargo Center since the 2012-13 season. … Junior G Phil Booth, who led all scorers with 20 points in the national championship game last April, missed his 17th straight game because of inflammation in his left knee.
SPREADING THE LOVE
“Kris is rare,” Hart said of his teammate. “He’s a gifted scorer who gets more excited at other people’s success and that shows a lot about his character.”
Providence will host St. John’s on Wednesday.
Villanova visits Marquette on Tuesday.