PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Maalik Wayns and Jay Vaughn Pinkston scored 18 points apiece and Villanova snapped a four-game losing streak with a 77-71 victory over Rutgers on Thursday night.
Dominic Cheek added 15 points and Mouphtaou Yarou had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (12-17, 5-12 Big East), who saw an early 19-point lead dwindle to a single point twice in the second half before prevailing.
Dane Miller had 16 points and Myles Mack 15 points for the Scarlet Knights (13-17, 5-12). Eli Carter added 14 before fouling out with 1:26 to play.
Villanova came into the game with the worst shooting percentage from the field in the conference (40.9 percent in all games) and the Wildcats had an opening half they could not forget and a second 20 minutes which were just the opposite.
The opening half numbers were 69.2 percent from the field. The second half was 27.3 percent and the result was a game that Villanova didn't wrap up until the final minute when Ty Johnson and Pinkston each hit two free throws to put the game away.
The second half was wild, though.
Trailing 50-32 in the opening minute of the second half, Rutgers forced six straight turnovers with a press and went on a 19-2 spurt to close the gap to 52-51 on a 3-pointer by Jerome Segears with just over 12 minutes left in regulation.
The Scarlet Knights never got over the hump, but they were in contention until the final minute.
Down 67-59 after Wayns hit a 3-pointer with 4:13 to go. Mack hit a long 3-pointer and Miller scored on a break to cut the deficit to 67-64 with 1:43 to play.
Two free throws by Yarou pushed the lead to five points with 1:26 to play but Miller hit two free throws and Mack nailed another 3-pointer around a three-point play by Pinkston to get Rutgers within 72-69 with 45.1 seconds left.
After Wayns was called for a questionable offensive foul in the front court, Mack was called for a charge with 29.5 seconds to go and Villanova sealed its second win in the last nine games from the free-throw line.
The Wildcats, who were limited to 46 points in a loss to Georgetown on Saturday, couldn't miss in the opening half. Villanova hit its first nine shots and shot 69 percent from the field. The Wildcats were even better from long range, making 8 of 10 in taking a 48-32 lead at intermission.
Cheek and Wayns each hit 5 of 6 shots in the half and scored 14 points. Cheek was 4 of 5 from downtown, while Wayns and Pinkston were perfect on their two 3-pointers.
The Associated Press News Service
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