LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP)—Corey Fisher made his first basket, then another. The Villanova freshman didn’t stop until the No. 20 Wildcats finished off Central Florida in the opening round of Old Spice Classic.
“I just got a little confident when I hit my first shot,” the 6-foot-1 freshman guard from Bronx, N.Y., said after scoring 10 of his 18 points in the second half of a 76-68 victory at Disney World on Thursday night.
Fisher missed the Wildcats’ season opener because of tendinitis in his left knee, then played four scoreless minutes in his college debut against Bucknell earlier this week.
Nevertheless, he looked very comfortable taking some of the offensive burden off Villanova stars Scottie Reynolds and Shane Clark.
“We’re not even seeing him at 100 percent,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “He missed a lot of practice. … But he’s been very, very coachable. I’m very pleased with his effort.”
Reynolds scored 19 and made five free throws in the final 1:42. Reggie Redding joined Fisher in delivering clutch second-half performance for the Wildcats (3-0), who led by 10 before UCF (2-1) rallied to keep the outcome in doubt until the closing seconds.
“We are a little unorganized and a little sloppy,” Wright said of his young team. “UCF was a very organized, experienced team and I think they showed basketball intelligence a little more than us.”
With Clark on the bench in foul trouble, Fisher scored eight straight for Villanova during one stretch, including consecutive 3-pointers that gave the Wildcats some breathing room after UCF pulled within 56-53.
Redding scored all 14 of his points after halftime. His jumper put Villanova up 66-58, and he added a pair of free throws after Mike O’Donnell made two foul shots to trim UCF’s deficit to 66-63 with 1:59 to go.
O’Donnell led UCF with 24 points, 15 of them in the second half when he made four of his six 3-pointers. Dave Noel added 16 for the Knights, who fell to 1-17 all-time against ranked opponents—the lone victory coming against the College of Charleston in 2002.
“It’s a learning experience for us. … I’m very disappointed we didn’t play better,” said UCF coach Kirk Speraw, whose team shot 43 percent and had 17 turnovers.
Villanova used a 13-2 run to build a 31-19 lead. UCF managed to stay in the game despite making just one field goal in the final 6 minutes of the opening half.
The Knights trailed 33-28 at halftime, thanks to free throws. They made 9-for-12 in the last 3 minutes of the half and continued to cut into Villanova’s lead with two more foul shots at the start of the second half.
Reynolds was only 4-for-14 from the field. But he was 7-for-8 from the free throw line, and made them when the Wildcats—playing without Clark, who fouled out with three minutes left—needed them most down the stretch.
Clark finished with six points—15 below his average.