TAMPA, Fla. – Corey Stokes scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half and No. 7 Villanova pulled away to an 83-71 victory over South Florida on Thursday night.
Dominic Cheek had 17 points and Maalik Wayns added 16 to help the Wildcats (13-1, 2-0 Big East) win for the eighth straight time since losing to Tennessee in the final of the NIT Season Tip-off. USF (6-10, 0-3) has dropped five straight despite showing signs of improvement.
Villanova shot 75 percent from 3-point range, with Stokes and Cheek making all nine of the shots they attempted behind the arc.
Limited to three points while only taking two shots in the opening half, Stokes made a pair of 3-pointers during a 9-0 spurt that put Villanova in control for good. Cheek finished the burst with a 3-pointer that put the Wildcats up 63-51 with 8 minutes to go.
The closest USF got down the stretch was seven points. Augustus Gilchrist led the Bulls with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Shaun Noriega scored 13 points and Hugh Robertson had 11 for USF, which stayed close early by outscoring the Wildcats 12-1 from the foul line in the first 16 minutes of the game.
Ron Anderson's rebound dunk gave the Bulls their last lead of the night, 28-27, before Villanova closed the half with an 8-2 spurt that Fisher finished with a steal and layup for a 35-30 advantage.
USF, coming off a 66-61 overtime loss at Connecticut, fell to 11-86 against ranked opponents, including a 3-17 mark in four seasons under coach Stan Heath. The Bulls led the Huskies with less than 3 minutes to go in regulation, but have had difficulty closing out games all season.
The Bulls have led in the second half of nine of their 10 losses, only to fade because of mistakes and poor shooting.
Villanova didn't give them a chance to falter late this time.
When USF closed to 54-51 on Noriega's four-point play, Stokes and Cheek took charge and delivered the trio of 3-pointers that carried the Wildcats to their largest lead of the night.
Stokes went 6 of 8 from the field, 5 for 5 on 3-point attempts. Cheek made all four of his 3-point attempts and was 6 for 6 overall.
Corey Fisher finished with 12 points and Antonio Pena had 11 points and seven rebounds for Villanova.