VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Corey Fisher got it started and Maalik Wayns finished the job. Fisher scored 20 of his 21 points in the first half and Wayns had 13 of his 15 in the second, and No. 7 Villanova beat No. 24 Cincinnati 72-61 on Sunday, handing the Bearcats their first loss of the season.
Fisher made all nine of his free throws in a dynamic first half for the Wildcats (14-1, 3-0 Big East). Wayns was 6 for 6 from the line in the second half.
“I just had to keep being aggressive and play the same game,” said Wayns, who played much of the second half with four fouls. “Take my aggressiveness away and I don’t play the same. I have to play the same way.”
Villanova upped its winning streak at The Pavilion, its cozy 6,500-seat on-campus arena, to 45 straight. The streak began on Jan. 17, 2007, and now includes 19 wins over Big East teams.
“Fish had a big first half,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “But he got in foul trouble. Both Fish and Wayns did a great job for us.”
Winners of nine straight, the Wildcats haven’t lost since losing 78-68 to Tennessee Nov. 26 in the finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.
When a 21-point lead was trimmed to seven in the second half, the Wildcats never panicked.
“We were playing good,” Fisher said. “They made some nice runs at us. We had to step it up. We knew we got a good win against a good team.”
Cincinnati (15-1, 2-1) started the season 15-0 for the first time since 1998-99. The Bearcats started 19-0 in 1962-63.
Rashad Bishop led Cincinnati with 14 points while Yancy Gates and Sean Kilpatrick added 11 each.
The Bearcats couldn’t get anything going offensively and finished with 23 points in the first half, the fewest in any game this season. They finished 2 of 20 from 3-point range for the game.
Cincinnati didn’t seem to resemble the team which remained unbeaten as the calendar flipped to 2011. Yet its nonconference schedule — ranked 335th out of 345 Division I teams — was not much of barometer of how good the Bearcats could be.
“I think we’re real good,” Bishop said. “To come in at Villanova, go down early and then fight back shows a lot of maturity on our part.”
Villanova broke open a close game by ending the half on an 18-4 run to take a 39-23 lead.
As Cincinnati misfired — going more than 8 minutes without a field goal during one stretch — the bench continually erupted on a number of fouls that were called. The Bearcats’ bench had been warned a couple of times earlier in the half for arguing about calls.
Then with 2:06 remaining, coach Mick Cronin received a technical foul and promptly removed his suit jacket in frustration while being held back by some of his players from yelling further at the officials.
“I’m not going to comment on the officials,” Cronin said. “I’ll just say we didn’t adjust to the game.”
Less than 2 minutes into the second half, Cincinnati forward Ibrahima Thomas was called for a technical foul after complaining following a foul call on Villanova’s Mouphtaou Yarou with 18:38 left in regulation.
Corey Stokes hit the two free throws for the technical and Yarou followed with two free throws for a 46-25 lead.
Cincinnati got within 55-48 with 10:18 left thanks to a 17-6 run. The Wildcats responded with a quick 7-2 spurt to ahead by 12 points. Dominic Cheek’s three-point play with 7:53 remaining gave Villanova a 62-50 lead.
“Big East games are so intense, and I think our seniors kept us together,” Wright said. “We did a good job defending the perimeter.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
(Photo provided by villanova.com.)