PROVIDENCE, R.I. - It was the game that would not end. For the longest time, Villanova had its way with Providence. It was easy, too easy, way too easy for a Big East road game.

Then it began to get complicated. The Wildcats never trailed, led by as many as 20 in the second half and probably did not get comfortable until they got on their plane home.

As the clock ever so slowly ticked down, the Wildcats made every foul shot while Providence seemingly made every three-pointer. The math was not working for the Wildcats, but the clock was going just fast enough.

It ran out just in time for Villanova to win it, 94-91. The Friars attempted 40 three-point shots and made 17. The Wildcats got five players in double figures and needed every point from every one of them, including 31 from Scottie Reynolds, who was ice from the foul line at the finish.

"It certainly wasn't pretty," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "You'd like to think an experienced team with some seniors, you get a big lead, you handle it better. I've got to give Providence credit. They just battled, battled, kept coming back. And I give our guys credit for their will and their mental toughness."

The Wildcats led by 69-50 with 11 minutes to go in the game, but they made just enough silly plays to open a door that the Friars nearly ran through.

Corey Fisher (12 points) was having a terrific game until he took an intentional foul (his fourth) and then got his fifth 25 seconds after returning. That took one of Villanova's two quick ballhandlers off the court and also allowed the Providence shooters much more space.

"After it got to 20, just a lot of things changed," Wright said. "I don't think it was our guys' fault. I think our guys did a good job."

It got frantic down the stretch, almost too frantic. Providence (14-8, 6-4 Big East) had three players with more than 20 points and made all those threes. It was almost enough.

Villanova (18-4, 6-3) got 19 from Dwayne Anderson and 12 each from Dante Cunningham and Reggie Redding. Anderson, Cunningham and Redding each had double-digit rebounds as the 'Cats controlled the glass, 50-38. They had 40 lane points to just 21 for the Friars, who were shooting from way outside the lane.

"They made as many great plays as we made stupid plays," Wright said.

Redding made a stupid play when he threw the ball up for grabs with 50 seconds left and his team leading, 82-77. Then he made an amazing block of Jonathan Kale's layup attempt.

When Providence's final trey went in with 2 seconds left, the lead was down to 92-91. Reynolds had to make two final free throws. Anderson knocked down the final long pass. And that, finally, was that.

"Once we got the lead, there were a lot of crazy things that happened," Wright said.

Fisher fouling out was one of them.

"It's funny," Reynolds said. "It was the 8-minute timeout and I was going to say, 'Coach, I'm going to need one more [break] and then I'm good for the game.'

"Then, Corey got his fifth foul and I said, 'I'm not even going to mention it.' Everybody out there was tired."

So he just kept playing. He had to. They all did.

Reynolds got off early, scoring 10 points in no time. Then, it was Fisher with long shots, floating shots and a magician-like switch to the left hand for a layup. Anderson hung out in the left corner in front of the Providence bench where the players on that bench were much closer than any Friars defender. He got time, took his time and knocked out three treys in the first 20 minutes.

The Wildcats led by 49-34 at the break. When the second half began, it got even easier. Then, it got hard.

"All the Big East games come down to the wire for the most part," Anderson said. "As an older group, you get a lead like that, you have to attack for 40 minutes. And we let up a little bit. You can't let up."

At the end, it was Providence on the attack. Then, the game ended.

The 'Cats' individual and team statistics are nearly identical in the league and outside the league. Which means this team is getting better as the season goes along. This game was different. But the bottom line was not.

"A road game in the Big East, man, but we'll take it and go home," Wright said.

They did. And they got a chance to breathe. *