After an uneven start, Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds seems to be hitting his stride in Big East play.
Reynolds and the No. 18 Wildcats (13-3, 3-2) look to build off a big conference road win Wednesday when they visit Rutgers, which is looking for its first Big East win.
After dropping two of its first three conference games, Villanova is coming off come-from-behind wins over DePaul and Syracuse. The Wildcats beat the Orange on the road Saturday, 81-71, behind another solid performance by Reynolds.
Reynolds, who was named the Big East player of the week on Monday, finished with 25 points and six rebounds. The sophomore guard, who is averaging a team-high 17.5 points, has averaged 26.0 over the last three games, during which he is 12-of-26 (46.2 percent) from 3-point range.
Reynolds scored a combined 15 points in his first two Big East games after averaging 17.0 points during the non-conference season.
Villanova trailed at the half for the second straight game Saturday, but it erased the five-point deficit quickly, taking advantage of Syracuse’s foul trouble. The Wildcats were 27-of-40 from the free-throw line, which helped make up for their 19 turnovers and 39.7 percent shooting from the field.
“I think we just had more bodies, and over the course of the game that really made a difference,” coach Jay Wright said. “We knew we had to be aggressive because of all the injuries and the young guys. … We wanted to be aggressive attacking the rim.”
The Wildcats shot 51.9 percent (14-of-27) from the field in the second half and were 19-of-28 from the free-throw line after the break. Villanova’s bench outscored Syracuse’s 31-5.
“In the second half, we just came out and played,” Reynolds said. “We weren’t thinking too much, just playing.”
The win was the Wildcats’ first in three conference road games. They have won their last two visits to Rutgers (8-11, 0-6), although this is their first trip since a 84-78 overtime win on Jan. 11, 2006. Villanova has won four straight overall against the Scarlet Knights and 11 of the last 15 meetings.
This is the second meeting between Wright and his former associate head coach, Fred Hill, who was with the Wildcats from 2001-05 before joining the Scarlet Knights in the same capacity. Hill was elevated to head coach before last season and was on the short end of a 74-51 loss on Feb. 24 as Reynolds scored 25 points off the bench.
The Scarlet Knights are trying to snap a six-game losing streak after a 75-73 loss to DePaul on Saturday. Rutgers shot a season-high 61.7 percent from the field and led by as many as 15 points, but DePaul rallied in the second half.
JR Inman’s 3-pointer with 3:35 left put Rutgers up 69-66, but DePaul scored the next seven points and never trailed again.
Inman finished with 22 points and eight rebounds while Anthony Farmer scored 17 points.
The six-game losing streak is Rutgers’ longest since 2002-03. The Knights haven’t lost seven in a row since dropping their first eight conference games from Jan. 2-27, 2001.