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No. 2 Villanova Holds Off Seton Hall, 81-71

Feb. 2, 2010

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Scottie Reynolds listed all the milestones that has teams coming hard at Villanova even before it landed at No. 2 in the Top 25. A Final Four. Big East favorites. Perfect conference start.

So as mediocre Seton Hall played like an NCAA bid was at stake, Reynolds and the Wildcats knew it was best to stay patient, wait to take charge and get the "W."

"We know guys are going to bring it," Reynolds said. "We have a lot of reasons why people should come at us."

No one in the Big East can figure out how to beat them.

Corey Stokes hit two 3-pointers during the decisive run and scored all 11 of his points in the second half, helping the Wildcats hold off a serious scare from Seton Hall in an 81-71 victory Tuesday night.

Stokes was a non-factor for the Wildcats (20-1, 9-0 Big East) until he broke a tie with a 3. He quickly followed with another 3-pointer for a long-range start to an 11-0 run that helped put the game away and extended Villanova's winning streak to 11 straight games.

"At some point in each game, there's going to be a combination that fits against that opponent," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

Playing with their highest ranking since they were No. 2 for two weeks in February 2006, the Wildcats could not make a serious run against Seton Hall until late.

"We can't expect to come in and blow teams out in this league," Wright said.

Jeremy Hazell kept thoughts of a second Top-10 Big East upset alive, scoring 32 points on 12 of 23 shooting for the Pirates (12-8, 3-6), who were outrebounded 50-31.

Seton Hall beat then-No. 9 Pittsburgh 64-61 on Jan. 24, but the Pirates failed to build on that marquee win, losing by two points in overtime at South Florida.

Hazell made the idea of another stunner seem realistic with the way he was shooting the 3. He made six of them, but it was his layup that helped the Pirates erase a halftime deficit and grab a 58-56 lead.

At that point, the Pirates had made 23 of 46 shots from the field. They made 6 of 21 the rest of the way, costing them what would have been a monumental win for the program.

Seton Hall is 0-28 against teams ranked Nos. 1-3 The Associated Press poll.

Hazell, the only Pirate to finish in double figures, did not play the final 4 minutes of the game. Coach Bobby Gonzalez was unhappy with Hazell's attempt to make a solo attempt at taking over the game.

"You just can't all of a sudden go 1-on-5, put your head down and expect the refs to bail you out," he said. "You can't come down every time and take big double-clutch shots. You don't get points for degree of difficulty. It was a chance for me to be a leader and try and teach him something."

The 10-deep Wildcats got some kind of production out of every player. Antonio Pena scored 16 points, Reynolds had 15 and Corey Fisher 12. Six players had at least five rebounds and 10 scored. Those are the kind of numbers usually seen in blowouts, not a 10-point win that was tight for all but the final few minutes.

"It wasn't anything that was dominating," Wright said. "It was just good, sound basketball. I really like that."

Reynolds became the eighth Villanova player to score 2,000 points. He scored a beautiful finger roll for a 60-58 lead, then dished a sweet cross-lane pass to Fisher on the break for a 62-58 lead.

The Wildcats are the only Big East team unbeaten in conference play. That mark is in serious jeopardy over the next week. The Big East favorites play at No. 7 Georgetown on Saturday and at No. 6 West Virginia on Feb. 8.

The Wildcats have 20 wins for the sixth straight season and this is the fastest they've reached that mark.

Villanova is so deep that it led by seven at halftime even with Stokes missing the only shot he took. He hit three 3s in the second half and suddenly that first half whitewash meant nothing. Not when so many different players are scoring.

"We just live for the moments where we can just push through and open up a game," Reynolds said. "We really take pride in that. I think that started going into my junior year. If we have a chance to just close it out, go to another level, we feel like we don't know if we can do it but we do it anyway, it just makes it that much special."

Hall of Famer and former Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. had a front-row seat for Villanova's 36th straight win at its on-campus home, the Pavilion.

Gonzalez wished the game was played on a neutral court because of the difficulty of winning at Villanova.

"It's not impossible, but it's not something that happens very often either," he said.