It was billed as likely to be the Villanova massacre, the night St. Joseph's humiliated its Big Five rival.

So it came as a surprise that James Bell - after struggling most of the game - pulled out a 65-61 victory for the Wildcats over the Hawks at the Pavilion.

The 6-foot-5 junior guard's three-pointer with 28 seconds left gave Villanova a 63-61 lead. Then his pair of foul shots with two seconds remaining gave the Cats the four-point margin of victory. He also scored seven of Villanova's final nine points.

Bell finished with 12 points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field. He was 2 for 6 on three-pointers.

"Coach [Jay Wright] called a play in the huddle, and I was actually the last look on the play," Bell said of the three-pointer. "But he put me in great position to do what I do best. . . . There was no thought. I had to step up."

Freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono, at the top of the key, was the first look on the play.

Tuesday night wasn't the first time Bell stepped up this season.

He was 1 for 8 on three-pointers against Purdue in regulation on Nov. 15 at Madison Square Garden. In overtime, Bell's two three-pointers helped the Owls pull off the 89-81 upset of the Boilermakers.

"This kid's got guts," Wright said. "He really does. He does all of the little things for our team. He's a leader for our team.

"He's got a lot of guts, man. I just love having him on our side."

Seated at the podium after beating the Hawks, the native of Orlando wasn't exactly glowing over his clutch three-pointer. It was as if the big shot came early in the game, not with 28 seconds left.

"It's a big feeling," Bell said. "But, like Coach always says, 'The highs can't be too high, the lows can't be too low.' We had to get a stop on the other end and I was worried about getting back."

Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock