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Second Half Rally Lifts Wildcats Past Rutgers 71-63
James Bell

Feb. 18, 2013

Box Score |  Quotes |  Notes

VILLANOVA, Pa. - A 50-point second half helped Villanova erase a 12-point deficit early in the second half and defeat Rutgers 71-63 before a sellout crowd of 6,500 at the Pavilion Monday evening. The win was the `Cats largest come-from-behind victory of the season and helped improve their record to 17-10 overall, 8-6 in the BIG EAST. Rutgers falls to 13-12 overall, 4-10 in conference action.

Villanova's entire starting five scored in double figures. Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston each scored 14 points to top Villanova. Rutgers sophomore Myles Mack led all scorers with 24 points.

"Everybody struggles to score against them and we really struggled to score in the first half," noted Villanova head coach Jay Wright, whose squad trailed 31-21 at intermission. "We got into foul trouble and really struggled to get good looks.

"In the second half we really just tried to simplify things - drive the ball and make passes. We were able to make some shots, even though some of them were tough, contested shots."

Arcidiacono staked the Wildcats to an early 6-2 lead with a pair of 3-pointers from beyond the top of the key. On its next two possessions, VU went inside to senior Mouphtaou Yarou and was rewarded with four converted free throws to build a 10-4 edge.

But Villanova's offense stalled in the face of Rutgers defense for a long stretch in the first half and that drought allowed the Scarlet Knights to grab the advantage.

Rutgers battled back to square the game at 14 after a Myles Mack jumper with under nine minutes to play in the period. The Wildcats, meanwhile, struggled to produce points and a free throw from Mack at the 7:31 mark gave the Scarlet Knights their first lead of the evening at 15-14.



Mack provided the scoring punch for the Scarlet Knights and his long 3-point goal gave Rutgers a 22-15 advantage with 5:07 left in the period. The 3-pointer gave him 12 of RU's first 22 points.

By halftime, Rutgers had built a 31-21 lead sparked by 16 points and six rebounds from Mack. Villanova, meanwhile, was just 6-of-20 from the field (.300) and 7-of-14 at the free throw line. Yarou was Villanova's scoring (eight points) and rebounding (10 caroms) leader after the first 20 minutes.

Mack picked up right where he left off, sinking the first basket to extend the Scarlet Knights' edge to 33-21 before a minute had run off the clock. But Villanova reeled off a 13-6 run capped by a 3-pointer from sophomore Darrun Hilliard to draw within 39-34 with 15:58 on the clock in the second half.

After another Hilliard score, this one created by full-court pressure that resulted in a steal, Villanova had shaved its deficit to 43-40 at the 13:53 mark. Next came a driving slam by Pinkston and the `Cats were within one point.

"I thought JayVaughn and Arch just did a great job of driving the ball and making plays, either for themselves or for their teammates," stated Wright.

The Wildcats grabbed the advantage and held it the rest of the way, though it was never a comfortable margin. Rutgers remained within striking distance in large part due to offensive rebounds - they would finish with 16 offensive boards and outscore VU 34-16 in the paint as the `Cats focused on Mack and his mates in the backcourt.

But a balanced Wildcats offensive attack had a response each time Rutgers drew near. Villanova drained six 3-pointers after halftime, including three by James Bell, who recreated his second half theatrics from Saturday at UConn with 11 points after intermission.

The Wildcats were out-rebounded for only the fourth time in BIG EAST play this season, but took control thanks to an offense that converted 13-of-23 (.565) from the field in the second half, including 6-of-10 (.600) from long distance. VU is now 14-0 this season when it makes six or more 3-point goals in a game.

Villanova returns to the Pavilion on Saturday night to host Marquette (6:00 p.m/ESPN2). The Wildcats will honor Yarou and Maurice Sutton as part of "Senior Night" ceremonies prior to the game.