There are few gimmes in the Big East. The schedule comes at you fast. And if you can’t stand the pace, watch the losses mount.
So far, so good, for Villanova, which for much of last night found itself in a shootout with a Louisville club put together exactly the way Rick Pitino likes it. The Cardinals (13-3) shoot first and ask questions later, though they don’t get many rebounds and throw the ball all over the place.
What started out as a harrowing evening for Jay Wright‘s Wildcats, who trailed much of the first half, eventually became business as usual. After a sluggish start, Villanova (15-1) built a 13-point lead midway into the second half and cruised to an 88-74 win.
Corey Stokes shrugged off a nagging hamstring to score 23 points and lead the charge for the No. 7 Wildcats. Big man Mouphtaou Yarou dominated the paint with 19 and 11 rebounds, while Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns chipped in with 17 and 15, respectively.
Wright, who watched his club fade from 20-1 to 25-8 down the stretch, is wary of another swoon.
“I still see a lot of room for improvement for this team,” said Wright. “Last year we were just outscoring people, like we did in the first half tonight [42-41]. But in the second half, we played defense and rebounded. I think we beat a very good team, which is worthy of their ranking [No. 18]. So maybe we’re starting to earn ours, too.”
The ’Cats face Maryland here Saturday before taking to the road: Connecticut, Syracuse and Providence.