PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Maalik Wayns never kept count. As the numbers clicked off in rapid succession, Villanova was only interested in piling on, not watching the scoreboard.
When the second-half charge was over, the Wildcats were stunned at how much punishment they dealt Maryland.
19-0. Game over.
“We hit some big shots, we got the crowd into it,” Wayns said, “But I had no idea at the number. I didn’t even realize it was 19-0.”
Corey Fisher scored eight of his 17 points during a sensational run that helped No. 7 Villanova avoid an upset and win its 11th straight game, 74-66 over Maryland on Saturday.
Wayns, who scored 22 points, and Fisher were dynamic in the backcourt and again showed why the Wildcats (16-1) are never out of any game.
The Wildcats trailed by 12 midway through the second half and could not make a shot against one of the top defensive teams in the nation. With outside threat and leading scorer Corey Stokes missing baskets early in the half, the Terps capitalized and hit a string of mid-range jumpers that stretched the lead to double-digits and stole the momentum.
Led by Jordan Williams, the Terps (11-6) were 9 minutes from the signature win against a Top 25 team that they’ve been craving and need to feel good about an NCAA tournament bid.
Fisher snatched it from them and sent the Wildcats streaking into Monday’s Big East showdown at No. 10 Connecticut. Fisher hit a pair of 3s during the spurt and sent the crowd at their off-campus NBA home into a frenzy.
After opening the second half 4 of 14 from the field, the Wildcats went on a tear.
The Wildcats got baskets from six different players and made six of their first seven shots of the run. The Terps went the other way, unable to get the ball inside to Williams, played sloppy, and lost composure while ‘Nova took control.
The Terps went about as cold as a team can get down the stretch — missing eight straight shots over 7:14 before Williams scored to made it 66-61.
The Terps closed within three when Wayns, a fast and fearless driver, stayed outside and buried a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats some space.
“We know if we play defense, we’re going to get out on the fastbreak and score,” Wayns said. “We just knocked down some shots.”
Wayns and Fisher combined to shoot 14 for 25 — a big bailout for a team that shot 29 percent from 3-point range and saw Stokes finish with nine points.
“We kept grinding and grinding,” Fisher said. “It was a great feeling and a great win.”
The Wildcats played without forward Maurice Sutton (disciplinary reasons) and went the second half without Dominic Cheek (injured left knee). Coach Jay Wright said Sutton was benched for a gesture he made in a win over Louisville, and described Cheek’s injury as “serious.”
The Wildcats couldn’t afford to let this win slip away, not with the Huskies and No. 4 Syracuse the next two games on the schedule.
The Wildcats forced turnovers and grabbed all the clutch rebounds down the stretch. Isaiah Armwood grabbed 13 rebounds and Mouphtaou Yarou had 12 to dominate inside and help make up for poor shooting. Wright has perhaps his most well-rounded team in 10 seasons — Antonio Pena is their first consistent double-double threat at forward in years.
He did it again with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
But the big numbers come with a price. The Wildcats are already thin on the bench and losing two more players forced the starters to again log heavy minutes. Pena played 39, Wayns 37 and Stokes 36.
The Terps came out with something to prove and crisp offense (12 assists on 15 baskets) sent them into halftime with a 36-33 lead. Williams was a rebound shy from a double-double at the break and the Terps were clicking.
They built the lead to 12 points and showed no signs of blowing the win. Williams had 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Dino Gregory and Adrian Bowie each had 10.
“We played at a real good level for 33 minutes,” coach Gary Williams said. “We knew they wouldn’t go away. You have to make shots when the other team’s on a run and we didn’t.”
No one can accuse the Terps of having a soft schedule. They have lost to No. 1 Duke, No. 5 Pittsburgh, No. 16 Illinois, No. 19 Temple and now the ranked Wildcats.
“It’s just a hump we’ve got to get over,” Jordan Williams said. “We know we can beat these teams. It’s a 4-minute period where we can’t make anything and it’s frustrating. That’s it.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)