Cunningham leads No. 21 Villanova over Cincinnati

February 1, 2009 4:12:25 PM PST
In the rugged Big East, there's little time to celebrate a big win. Dante Cunningham scored 21 points, Scottie Reynolds added 11 and No. 21 Villanova rallied from an early deficit for a 71-50 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday. Coming off an emotional 67-57 win over No. 3 Pittsburgh on Wednesday in the final game at the Wachovia Spectrum, the Wildcats struggled from beyond the arc early and didn't seem to have the same intensity.

"It's just something we have to keep pounding into the younger guys' heads," said Cunningham, a senior. "We've been through it when we were younger. It's not going to help you win the next game."

Corey Fisher also had 11 for Villanova (17-4, 5-3 Big East), which won its third straight thanks to 51 percent shooting. The Wildcats extended their winning streak to 25 at The Pavilion, their 6,500-seat on-campus arena. Their last loss at the arena was Jan. 6, 2007, when they fell to DePaul.

Yet this victory over Cincinnati was anything but easy. Villanova coach Jay Wright said the team hadn't had to adjust to a big win before.

"I know everyone was hyped around here after the Pitt game," he said. "I was concerned about them (Cincinnati) coming in. We really had to adjust in the second half against them."

Alvin Mitchell scored 15 points and Yancy Gates added nine for Cincinnati (14-8, 4-5), which had won two in a row. A jumper by Mitchell got Cincinnati within 45-39 with 13:13 remaining before Villanova went on a 12-0 run to take a 57-39 advantage with 7:25 left.

"Their run was fueled by second shots," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "We didn't get back. We hung our heads."

Fisher and Corey Stokes each had four points during the key spurt and helped the Wildcats improve to 16-0 against unranked opponents this season.

Cincinnati was hurt by 18 turnovers and 29 percent shooting. "We shot the ball extremely poor from the perimeter, considering the type of looks we had," Cronin said.

Cincinnati still managed to take a 26-19 lead on a three-point play by Gates with 5:09 remaining in the first half. But Villanova closed the half on an 11-3 run, capped by Reynolds' layup with 4.4 seconds left that gave the Wildcats a 30-29 advantage at the break.

Villanova missed all six of its 3-pointers in the first half and finished 2-for-12 overall.