VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — James Bell hit the winning 3-pointer with 29 seconds left to rally Villanova to a 65-61 win over Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday night.
Bell and JayVaughn Pinkston scored 12 points apiece for the Wildcats (6-4). Bell squared up and delivered the decisive blow in a city series game that had the crowd roaring down the stretch.
Halil Kanacevic started the fun with an obscene gesture toward the Villanova student section after a 3-pointer that never calmed down the fans.
Langston Galloway led the Hawks (5-3) with 22 points and Carl Jones had 16.
The Wildcats beat the Hawks for the first time in two seasons and extended their series lead in the annual Big 5 game to 45-25.
Ronald Roberts Jr. hit the go-ahead free-throws with 3:42 left for the Hawks. Galloway hit his fifth 3-pointer and punched his fist in the air after the lead-stretching shot that silenced the Villanova crowd.
Daniel Ochefu powered his way inside for a bucket that pulled Villanova within one and set up yet another Holy War game to come down to the final minute.
Kanacevic was fouled and went to the line with 45.8 seconds left and stood in front of a student section that delighted in taunting him. He missed both free throws and Villanova grabbed the rebound and called a timeout to set up the next possession.
Bell buried the 3 from the left wing with 29 seconds left for a 63-61 lead.
With no room to pass on an inbound play, Kanacevic tried to bounce the ball off a Villanova defender. But it shot off him and went out of bounds and Villanova held on for the win.
It was a needed win for a Wildcats team that has already lost to La Salle and Columbia.
Kanacevic made it 50-47 with a 3-pointer and extended a middle finger toward the Villanova students.
The crowd went wild as Saint Joseph’s headed into a timeout. Kanacevic walked out of the huddle to the sounds of an obscenity chanted at his direction. A referee warned him not to make the gesture again. He would be loudly booed each time he touched the ball the rest of the game.
No technical was called. But the Hawks were quickly whistled for one after C.J. Aiken’s blocked shot led to some more preening.
Pinkston’s three-point play and Maurice Sutton’s thunderous dunk that rattled the rim and the fans made it 53-50.
The Wildcats needed a late charge in the first half to take control.
Villanova coach Jay Wright was furious over a non-foul call and had to be held back by his assistants. Wright was hit with a technical and Saint Joseph’s took advantage from the free-throw line to build a five-point lead.
The Wildcats committed nine turnovers in the first half and their offense looked out of sync and unsure on numerous possessions. Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono shook Villanova out of its funk and woke up a quiet crowd with back-to-back 3s to send the Wildcats into halftime with a 33-31 lead.