Villanova Senior Guard Corey Stokes scored a game-high 23 points leading the #8 Wildcats earned an 81 – 65 win over Rutgers in the Big East opener for both teams at the Pavilion. Stokes posted 21 of his 23 points in the second half as he connected on four 3-Point shots and made 7 of 9 free throws. Stokes credited the efforts of his teammates which allowed him to have a big second half.
“Rutgers did a great job of denying me the ball,” Stokes said. “In the second half our guys set good screens and did a good job of getting me open shots, and I knocked them down.”
“He is really a smart player,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said about Stokes. “He finds good shots. We knew at halftime if Corey Stokes had only 2 points, we were in trouble. In the second half we ran him off screens, and Fish (Guard Corey Fischer) and Maalik (Guard Maalik Wayns) find him in transition.”
Villanova trailed at halftime 37 – 33, and started their comeback in the second half with Stokes making a layup and one from beyond the arc around a three by Senior Guard Corey Fischer to give the Wildcats a 41 – 37 lead 1:37 into the half. Rutgers stayed in contention getting to within 53 – 50 with 9:55 remaining in the half on two free throws by Forward Jonathan Mitchell. Mitchell scored a game-high 17 for the Scarlet Knights. Villanova turned up the defense. Over the next five minutes Rutgers committed 4 turnovers and missed five shots as Villanova went on a 14 – 4 run taking a 67 – 54 lead with 4:57 on the clock. Stokes had 6 points in the run and Sophomore Forward Mouphtaou Yarou had 4 points.
The Villanova defense forced 14 Rutgers turnovers that led to a 22 – 14 Points Off Turnovers advantage. Villanova out-rebounded Rutgers 40 – 21, 17 – 7 on the offensive glass. Rutgers made 20 of 48 field goal attempts for 41.7%, and made just 3 of 13 shots from beyond the arc. Villanova was 23 – 53 for 43.4%. The Wildcats made 8 of 15 three-pointers with Stokes making 4 of 7.
“We got stops and that was the key, and we rebounded the ball well in the second half,” said Wright.
Fischer scored 19 points for Villanova and dished out 6 assists. Sophomore Guard Maalik Wayns scored 9 points, and had 9 assists and a career-high 8 rebounds.
“The rebounds were big,” said Wright. “When we can put pressure on the guards and rebound, that had a big deal to do with the differential.”
Villanova improves to 12 – 1 on the season, and is 1 – 0 in conference play. This was not a work of art, but it is a home win in the league.
“Welcome to the Big East,” said Wright. “Not a pretty one, but that’s the way it’s going to be in this league.”
Key Run of the Game
Villanova led 53 – 50 with 9:55 remaining in the game as Rutgers Forward Jonathan Mitchell sank two free throws. Over the next five minutes Villanova went on a 14 – 4 run to take a 67 – 54 lead on a Corey Stokes free throw with 4:57 on the clock. Stokes scored 6 points in the run and Yarou added 4 during that span.
Key Stat of the Game
Villanova out-scored Rutgers 22 – 14 in Points Off Turnovers. The Wildcats forced 14 Rutgers turnovers, 8 in the second half.
Key Players in the Game
For Villanova – Corey Stokes with a game-high 23 points on 5 – 9 shooting from the floor, and 4 of 7 three-point shots. Stokes was 9 of 10 from the free throw line.
For Rutgers – Forward Jonathan Mitchell who scored a team-high 17 points, making 8 of 10 free throws, and grabbed 5 rebounds.
Point Where the Game Was Decided