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Villanova tops Rutgers in Big East opener

Jan 2, 2011 - 10:05 PM Villanova, PA (Sports Network) - Corey Stokes scored 23 points and Corey Fisher added 19, as eighth-ranked Villanova pulled away late in the second half for an 81-65 victory over Rutgers in the Big East opener for both schools at the Pavilion.

Maalik Wayns contributed nine points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Villanova (12-1, 1-0 Big East), which has won seven straight since a loss to Tennessee in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-off at Madison Square Garden on November 26.

Jonathan Mitchell scored 17 points and James Beatty chipped in 14 for the Scarlet Knights (9-4, 0-1), who lost by 23 to North Carolina in their last contest on December 28. Rutgers had won six straight before that setback.

Villanova trailed 37-33 at the break, but scored the first 11 points to start the second half. Stokes netted eight during the early burst and his three- pointer just over two minutes into the period gave the Wildcats a 44-37 lead.

Rutgers was still within three at 53-50 after two free throws by Mitchell with just under 10 minutes left, but the Wildcats responded with the next nine points to open some breathing room. Stokes and Fisher hit back-to-back treys to cap the run for a 62-50 margin.

The Scarlet Knights got only as close as seven from there.

Rebounding proved vital, as Villanova held a 40-21 edge on the boards. The Wildcats had 17 offensive rebounds to seven for Rutgers.

Rutgers led by four early in the contest, but it was close for most of the first half. Villanova opened a 25-19 advantage with 5:46 left after a pair of Fisher free throws, but Rutgers answered with a 7-2 run to pull within one and took a 33-32 edge with 1:37 left on a three-point play by Dane Miller.

Beatty followed with a bucket on the Scarlet Knights' next trip and Mike Coburn added a pair from the line for a five-point cushion before Mouphtaou Yarou's free throw sent the Wildcats to the intermission down 37-33.

"For 20 minutes, we kind of lost who we were," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "So we had to come out, keep grinding and do what we do."

Game Notes

The Wildcats improved to 6-4 in conference openers under Wright...Villanova has won 44 straight games at the Pavilion dating back to a loss to DePaul on January 6, 2007...Gilvydas Biruta scored 12 points for Rutgers before being ejected in the final minute after officials deemed he threw an elbow at Villanova's Dominic Cheek...Miller added 11 for the Scarlet Knights...Rutgers managed just four points from its bench -- all by Mike Poole...Villanova improved to 26-8 all-time against Rutgers, including 8-1 at the Pavilion...The Wildcats next visit South Florida on Thursday, while Rutgers hosts Marquette on Wednesday.