'Cats Clamped Down on Rutgers in 70-49 win at the BIG EAST Tournament
March 7, 2012
NEW YORK, N.Y. - The Villanova Wildcats (13-18 overall) rode a smothering second half defensive effort to a 70-49 victory over Rutgers in the opening round of the BIG EAST Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters before a sellout crowd of 20,057 at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
The 'Cats held Rutgers to 3-of-25 shooting in the second half and just 15 points, helping to erase a 34-30 halftime deficit.
Eli Carter led the Scarlet Knights with 23 points.
"That was a great defensive second half for us," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "On Monday afternoon, we had everybody at practice for the first time, and we're just having fun. We had a lot of fun being together, being healthy, and just happy for our guys that they've really stuck to it this year. A lot of teams have struggles. Everybody goes through it. We do, too. But I'm just happy we got everybody healthy and able to play tonight, and they played well."
Yarou opened the scoring with a short jumper from inside the lane and with 13:27 left in the first half the Wildcats held a 12-7 lead. A 3-point goal by RU's Myles Mack quickly shaved the deficit to 12-10 with just over 12 minutes left in the period.
James Bell's second 3-point goal lifted VU to a 15-10 lead.
The 'Cats leaned on solid defense and timely shooting to build a 24-16 after a pair of Maurice Sutton free throws with 6:53 left.
Back-to-back triples from Mack, Dane Miller, and Eli Carter pushed the Scarlet Knights to 25-24 lead. Just over four minutes remained in the half.
That signaled the start of what would become an 18-2 run that gave Rutgers an eight point cushion. Villanova scored the final four points of the period to cut the gap in half. It was 34-30 at intermission.
Maalik Wayns led Villanova with nine points in the first. The big storyline, however, was Rutgers' proficiency from deep - the Scarlet Knights were 7-of-11 (.640) from distance to account for 28 of the 34 points on the scoreboard.
The game of spurts continued early in the second half as VU outscored the Knights 10-2 over the first 4:35 of the period to reclaim the lead at 40-36.
The lead grew to 46-39 and the pattern continued throughout the half as the Wildcats steadily pulled away thanks largely to the suffocating defensive effort. Rutgers was limited to .291 shooting for the game, the lowest percentage an opponent has shot against the Wildcats in 2011-12.
"There's no question it was our best defensive effort of the season," noted Wright.
Villanova snapped a 3-game losing streak at the BIG EAST Championship with the win and now meets USF for the third time this season. The Bulls eliminated the Wildcats from the 2011 BIG EAST Championship, 70-69.