VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Villanova had its worst shooting performance of the season, but made enough plays down the stretch to eke out a victory over pesky New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Ryan Arcidiacono scored 17 points as Villanova defeated the Highlanders 70-60 on Friday night to win its fifth straight game.
It was the final nonconference game for the Wildcats (9-4), who open Big East play next Wednesday by hosting St. John’s.
Darrun Hilliard had 12 points and JayVaughn Pinkston and Maurice Sutton had 10 apiece for the Wildcats, who won despite shooting a season-low 30.8 percent (20 of 65) from the field, including 5 of 27 3-point attempts.
“It’s good for us to pull out a ‘W’ not shooting the ball well,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Sometimes you have to find a way to win when you can’t make a shot. We just couldn’t buy a shot. We’ll take that.”
“We found each other for open shots,” Arcidiacono said. “We weren’t hitting them, but Coach just tells us to keep shooting and that’s what we did. I thought we shared the ball really well and got the open shots we wanted, we just didn’t make them.”
Ryan Woods had 13 points for NJIT (6-6).
“I was really happy, I was proud of the effort,” NJIT coach Jim Engles said. “We really competed with a big, athletic team. It’s just a matter of finishing out the games, unfortunately.”
The Highlanders, who began Division I play in 2006-07, were playing their fourth Big East team this season. NJIT lost its three previous games to St. John’s, Providence and Seton Hall by a combined 18 points.
NJIT led the Friars 63-62 with 4:17 left and held a 14-point lead over St. John’s in the first half.
The Wildcats made 25 of 33 free-throw attempts, while NJIT was 8 for 15 from the line.
Villanova struggled to a five-point halftime lead before appearing to gain control with a 10-5 run to start the second half, giving it a 42-32 lead with 16:06 remaining.
But NJIT didn’t wilt, outscoring the Wildcats 19-9 over the next 10:12 to knot the score at 51 with 7:54 left.
“They show a lot of resiliency,” Engles said of his players. “And obviously we get up for these games because everybody thinks they should be playing in the Big East. So it’s fun. It’s just a matter of us getting to the end of the games and making sure we complete the pass, are in the proper defensive coverage or getting the rebound.”
Villanova took control after NJIT tied it. Pinkston scored six of the next eight Villanova points to help the Wildcats reclaim the lead, 59-54, with 4:49 to play. The Wildcats stretched the margin to seven points when Hilliard converted a fast-break layup after a steal by Tony Chennault to put Villanova up 65-58 with 1:37 left.
NJIT couldn’t get closer than five points the rest of the way.
“We get a little worn down at the end of the game,” Engles said. “They are a Big East team, big and athletic. And they made some plays we couldn’t do anything about.”
While they didn’t shoot the ball well, the Wildcats possessed the ball better than any other time this season. Turnovers were a point of concern for Wright earlier in the year, but Villanova managed a season-low eight giveaways against NJIT.
“If we would’ve turned the ball over, those guards are really quick, we would’ve been in big trouble,” Wright said. “Taking care of the basketball was big. We learned we can come into a game and not make shots and win, find a way to grind it out — especially down the stretch.”
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