PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Villanova trailed by eight points late, but the 12th-ranked Wildcats didn’t panic and were able to escape with a victory over upset-minded La Salle.
Maalik Wayns scored 19 points, including the go-ahead layup with 1:09 left, in Villanova’s 84-81 victory Sunday.

Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher had 16 points each, and Dominic Cheek contributed 14 for the Wildcats (8-1), who overcame an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes for their ninth straight victory over the Explorers (6-4).

“We know we’re on the road, stuff is going to go bad and the crowd is going to go crazy,” Fisher said. “We just have to keep playing Villanova basketball and that’s what we did.”

Jerrell Williams scored 20 points to lead four La Salle players in double figures. Sam Mills had 14 points, Tyreek Duren 13 and Ruben Guillandeaux 10.

Duren’s two free throws with 5:23 remaining put La Salle up 74-66, matching its biggest lead of the second half, before Villanova went on a 12-2 run to take a 78-76 lead with 3:06 left. Cheek capped the run with consecutive 3-pointers.

“Those are big shots by Cheek,” Fisher said. “Our whole team can do that, take over games. We all take pride in helping each other.”

Mills answered with a 3-pointer with 1:43 left to give La Salle a 79-78 lead with 1:43 remaining. But Villanova retook the lead on Wayns’ crucial three-point play, a driving layup and free throw that put the Wildcats up 81-79 with 1:09 left.

La Salle’s Aaric Murray missed an 8-footer that would have tied it on the Explorers’ ensuing possession. After Fisher missed a 3, Villanova’s Mouphtaou Yarou came down with a big rebound and Fisher made two free throws to give the Wildcats an 83-79 lead with 13.5 seconds left. After Duren made two free throws to pull La Salle within 83-81,

Fisher made 1 of 2 from the line with 10.1 seconds left and Villanova led 84-81.

The Explorers had two chances to tie in the final seconds, but Maurice Sutton blocked Mills’ 3-point attempt with four seconds left before Mills’ final attempt from 33 feet bounced off the rim.

Villanova coach Jay Wright praised the Wildcats’ defense late. The Explores missed 6 of their final 8 shots, while committing three turnovers over the final 5:23.

“We played great team defense down the stretch,” Wright said. “Our guys really started helping each other.”

La Salle was hurt by foul trouble to Murray, the Explorers’ leading scorer who entered averaging 16.6 points but scored just four in 12 minutes.

“Murray was in foul trouble, but they still could’ve won the game,” Wright said. “They have a really good team. We knew it would be tough.”

La Salle coach John Giannini was left shaking his head at his team’s mistakes and its missed opportunity at upsetting Philadelphia’s premier team.

“Villanova is the gold standard of the Big 5 right now and you only play them once a year,” Giannini said. “We don’t get them again. It’s a one-time shot against the 12th-ranked team in the country and, frankly, I feel like we blew it. “To their credit they executed,” Giannini added. “They didn’t turn it over. They know the shots they want. They’re good players and they made the shots.”

La Salle took its biggest lead of the game at 20-6 with 11:40 left in the first half, as Villanova started the game shooting 1 of 15 from the field, including missing five 3-point attempts. But the Wildcats scored 25 of the next 33 points while making 8 of 9 shots to take their first lead, 31-28, with 4:43 left in the half on Cheek’s second straight 3-pointer.

Villanova, which committed a season-high 18 turnovers, led 38-37 at halftime.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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