In a game reminiscent of classic city series games, Villanova edged La Salle 84-81 in a nail-biter that was not decided until the final shot was launched by La Salle’s Sam Mills as time expired. Had it gone in, it would have sent the game into overtime. Alas, the shot missed, and the Wildcats survived the hard-fought battle. After the game, Villanova Coach Jay Wright said, ” Great atmosphere, great Big Five basketball, it’s what the Big Five is all about.”
The half ended with the Wildcats holding a one-point lead 38-37. La Salle was hampered by foul trouble which limited their leading scorer this season, Aaric Murray, to 8 minutes and no points. Devon White was also in foul trouble picking up three fouls in the first half.
Villanova started edging its way back and took the lead at 78-76 on a Cheek three-pointer with 3:10 to play. Sam Mills responded with a three-pointer of his own to put La Salle back on top for the final time with 1:46 to go.
Maalik Wayns then put the Wildcats in the lead for good on an old fashioned three point play, a driving lay-up and an ensuing foul shot with 1:09 left on the clock. Mouphtaou Yarou then grabbed a huge rebound on a Corey Fisher miss with 18 seconds left. Fisher was subsequently fouled and converted both foul shots to give the Cats a 83-79 lead.
To the dismay of Villanova coach Jay Wright, Tyreek Duren was fouled by Isaiah Armwood and converted both to make it 83-81 with 11 seconds remaining. After being fouled, Fisher made one of two foul shots for Nova to make it 84-81. The Explorers had two opportunities to tie the game. However, Maurice Sutton blocked Duren’s three-point attempt out of bounds and after the inbound play, Mills missed a long three-pointer at the buzzer.
Villanova had five players who scored in double figures. Wayns had 19, Fisher and Corey Stokes each had 16, Cheek, who hit four three-pointers, had 14, and Antonio Pena added 13. The leading rebounder for the Wildcats was Yarou with 9 and Fisher had 8 assists to go with 4 turnovers. Overall Villanova had 16 assists and 18 turnovers.
For the Explorers, Williams led the way with 20 points and 7 rebounds. Both of La Salle’s Freshmen guards scored in double figures. Sam Mills had 14, including 4 of 5 from three-point range. Duren had 13 points. Aaric Murray was limited to 4 points and 5 rebounds in 12 foul plagued minutes.
La Salle, coached by Dr. John Giannini, next plays on December 17 at home against Bucknell.Villanova plays on December 18 against the Delaware Blue Hens at the Wells Fargo Center.