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Villanova narrowly escapes Big 5-rival La Salle

Dec 12, 2010 - 11:10 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Maalik Wayns converted a go-ahead three- point play late in regulation, and the 12th-ranked Villanova Wildcats escaped Tom Gola Arena with a narrow 84-81 victory over Big 5-rival La Salle.

Villanova rebounded from a slow start and led by one at the break. It was close throughout the second half, and Wayns' free throw following his layup put the Wildcats up 81-79 with 1:09 remaining.

It was a free throw contest from there, and Corey Fisher's 1-for-2 showing at the stripe resulted in an 84-81 advantage to give La Salle one last chance with 10.1 seconds remaining.

Tyreek Duren's try from the right wing was blocked out of bounds by Maurice Sutton with 3.3 ticks showing, and Sam Mills had his deep three fall just off the mark as the buzzer sounded, ending the back-and-forth affair.

Wayns ended with 19 points, while Fisher and Corey Stokes each netted 16 for Villanova (8-1), which has won three straight since losing to Tennessee.

Jerrell Williams scored 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out five assists to pace the Explorers (6-4), who were coming off Thursday's win over Boston University.

"I'm extremely frustrated because we left so many plays out on the court," La Salle head coach John Giannini said. "We have to get a little better."

The Explorers started off strong, scoring the first seven points of the game and going on top, 14-4, on Ruben Guillandeaux's three-pointer four minutes in.

The Wildcats struggled from the field in the opening eight-plus minutes, hitting just one of their first 15 shots.

They trailed, 20-6, following a Williams bucket near the 12-minute mark before roaring back with a 25-8 stretch over the next seven minutes.

Dominic Cheek's consecutive three-pointers capped the flurry for a 31-28 lead with under five minutes left in the half, and the visitors went into the locker room holding a slim 38-37 edge.

The hosts held the biggest lead of the second half, 72-64, following an Earl Pettis three-pointer with 7 1/2 minutes left.

It was still a four-point game in favor of La Salle, 76-72, before two Cheek makes from long range gave the Wildcats the lead with 3:10 to play.

Mills drained a three several possessions later, only to have Wayns answer with a critical three-point play down the stretch.

Game Notes

The Wildcats have captured 24 of their last 26 Big 5 contests and nine straight in this series. They lead the all-time series, 34-26...The combined record of the four teams that have defeated La Salle is 31-3...Mills posted 14 points for the Explorers, who got 13 points and seven assists from Duren...Cheek finished with 14 points, while Antonio Pena scored 13 for Villanova...The Wildcats shot 27-of-34 from the free throw line, compared to La Salle's 11-for-13 effort.