At the end of last season, Villanova coach Jay Wright had a little talk with Dwayne Anderson and told him the kinds of things players don't like to hear.

"On the court, he wanted to do things his way," Wright said, referring to Anderson's first two seasons. "I told him, 'I love you, but you've got to do it our way or you're not going to play.' He said, 'I'm fine with that, and I want to be part of it.' "

Anderson worked hard in practice, earned the first start of his career last night, and left the Pavilion as the hero after his three-point basket with 12.3 seconds to play gave the Wildcats a 72-70 Big East win over Seton Hall, snapping 'Nova's five-game losing streak.

The 6-foot-6 junior, who had two three-point baskets in his first nine Big East games this season, came up with three treys last night on his way to 13 points and team highs of eight rebounds, three assists and three steals for the Wildcats (14-8, 4-6 Big East).

Anderson, a prolific scorer in high school and prep school, remade himself as a defensive stopper this season. Still, he did not play in five of the Wildcats' first 10 games as Wright tried to give his four freshmen some playing time.

"Basically, I've been playing all my life," Anderson said. "I tried to come off the bench and jell in other roles. It's not easy, but Coach talked to me, and my parents talked to me every day and told me to have a good head on my shoulders and stay positive. That's what I did."

Wright appreciated Anderson's effort in practice, leaving him no choice but to start him.

"We decided we were going to go with young players and take our hits," the coach said. "But he just played so well and he's been such a great leader. Some young guys have struggled - no big deal. But we had a meeting [during the week] and said we're going to go with the older guys."

One of the "older guys," junior Dante Cunningham, matched a career high with 21 points, including 13 in 16 tries from the free-throw line. Freshman Corey Fisher added 13 points.

The second half featured 10 lead changes and six ties, and neither team led by more than four points.

Scottie Reynolds, who went just 2 of 9 for 10 points but played in pain after banging his right knee in a nasty spill early in the first half, drained a three-ball with 3 minutes, 48 seconds remaining to put Villanova ahead, 68-66. But Brian Laing tied it for Seton Hall (15-9, 5-6) with two free throws.

Cunningham hit one of two free throws with 48.9 seconds remaining to give the 'Cats the lead once again, but the Pirates regained it, 70-69, on Eugene Harvey's drive in the lane at the 37.2-second mark.

The Wildcats' final possession came down to Reynolds' grabbing a loose ball after misses by Fisher and Anderson touched off a furious scramble. Reynolds spotted Anderson in the left corner, and Anderson's shot swished through.

"Coach always says to shoot with confidence, and that's what I did," Anderson said.

Jamar Nutter, who led the Hall with 18, missed a three-point try at the buzzer, and the Wildcats were relieved and excited to snap their losing streak with their first win in three weeks before heading for Georgetown tomorrow night.

"We certainly needed that one, that's the understatement of the year," Wright said. "It was great to get it that way, in a grind-it-out game where we got some defensive stops. I thought our second-half defense might have been our best of the year."

Notes. The loss was the Pirates' ninth straight at the Pavilion, where they haven't won since February 1994. . . . Seton Hall played without junior guard Paul Gause, a former Schalick High star, who tore a ligament in his left knee in Wednesday night's loss to Notre Dame. He will miss the rest of the season.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.