Rutgers was 10 minutes away from an upset victory. The way the Scarlet Knights were hitting 3s and making defensive stops and rattling the Wildcats, they seemed poised to steal a win on the road at Villanova.
Villanova, though, haven't lost at home in two years and wasn't about to go down to the Scarlet Knights.
Corey Fisher scored seven of his 14 points in a 2-minute stretch that turned a small deficit into the decisive run and led the No. 12 Wildcats to their 27th straight campus win, 82-72 win over Rutgers on Thursday night.
Scottie Reynolds scored 21 points and Corey Stokes had 17 points for Villanova (21-5, 9-4 Big East).
Fisher's run wiped out a two-point hole and gave the Wildcats a 63-56 lead. Then they went 8-for-11 from the floor and used a 20-5 run to win for the seventh time in the past eight games.
"It's a good Big East win, man," coach Jay Wright said. "We were just battling."
Wright shook his head when he glanced at Rutgers' numbers on the stat sheet: 10-for-22 on 3-pointers, a 59 percent shooting percentage in the second half, and only two missed free throws.
"You lose those games normally," Wright said.
Not this time, mostly because the Scarlet Knights (10-16, 1-12) did most of their damage in the first 12 minutes, before fading in the final 8. Throw in 20 turnovers and only five offensive rebounds, and they just couldn't hold up against their Big East rival 70 miles down the road.
"We've done it time and time again," said Rutgers coach Fred Hill, a former Villanova assistant under Wright. "You hang in, you battle, you make plays. Offensively, you can't ask for anything better than that."
Rutgers gamely tried to duplicate last year's 80-68 stunner over the Wildcats in Piscataway, N.J., and kept this one close for most of the first 30 minutes. Mike Rosario scored 19 points and Anthony Farmer had 17.
The Scarlet Knights are 0-7 on the road in conference games.
The Wildcats needed some time to revert to form and bounce back from their 18-point loss last week at West Virginia. Stokes and Reynolds each hit 3s that stretched Villanova's lead to nine and the Wildcats finally seemed to shake the pesky Scarlet Knights.
Only problem was, Jaron Griffin wasn't going to let Rutgers go down easy. Not considered much a scoring threat at only 3 points per game, the senior reserve sank two 3-pointers that quickly sliced the deficit to three. His next 3 at the 11-minute mark put Rutgers up 54-52 for its first lead since it was 18-16 early in the first half.
"That's a point where you just want to get the guys pumped up," Wright said. "The crowd's groaning, (Rutgers) is hitting 3s. We overcame that. I like that. I like our attitude overcoming all of that."
Villanova answered with a basket, then Mike Coburn put Rutgers ahead 56-54 with 10 minutes left and the Scarlet Knights had visions of another upset. Rutgers hasn't beaten the same nationally ranked team in consecutive seasons since knocking off Syracuse in 1998 and 1999.
Those thoughts of spoiling Villanova's senior night didn't last long.
Fisher, Villanova's top scorer off the bench, went on his spurt during a 12-0 run that sparked the Wildcats. Stokes nailed a 3 to make it an 11-point game and send the Wildcats on their way to their 27th straight win at the Pavilion. He hit another 3 with 4:21 left for a 76-61 lead that signaled to the fans not used to the 9 p.m. tip that it was time to leave. And plenty did.
The Wildcats haven't lost at their on-campus home since Jan. 6, 2007.
The Scarlet Knights made seven of their first 10 shots to start the game and were tied at 27 late in the half. Reynolds scored 11 points in the half and helped Villanova take a 37-31 lead at the break.
"They were just moving it, moving the ball around well and getting shots," said Villanova's Dante Cunningham, who scored 12 points for the Wildcats.
Then it all stopped for the Scarlet Knights and a tight game went down as just another loss.
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