VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP)—Battered, bruised and worn down, Villanova found a way to keep its home winning streak going.
Up ahead for the No. 23 Wildcats is a needed break.
Scottie Reynolds scored 19 points, Corey Fisher had 15 and Reggie Redding 14 to lead banged-up Villanova past pesky Niagara, 77-62 on Wednesday night.
“I was happy we kind of gutted it out,” coach Jay Wright said. “It’s not a pretty victory, but a good one to have in the bank.”
The injury report has been about as much a pregame staple at Villanova this season as the layup drills.
The Wildcats (3-0) played their third straight game without swingman Dwayne Anderson (foot), and 6-foot-10 center Casiem Drummond (foot) was limited to only 2 minutes.
Corey Stokes scored seven points and played with a taped sprained left thumb.
The Wildcats played their third game in six days, leaving them little time to practice with a full squad or recover from the nagging injuries.
“We just have to be smart about it,” Reynolds said. “We have to be mature and learn from film and go out there with the idea that we’ve got to get better in a shorter period of time.”
Villanova doesn’t play again until Nov. 25 against Monmouth.
The Wildcats were just vulnerable enough to be severely tested at home by Niagara. The Purple Eagles (1-1) opened the second half on a hot streak and a pair of 3s helped slice the deficit to single digits.
Reynolds sank two from the free-throw line around the 8-minute mark and a jumper by Redding let the Wildcats regain a double-digit lead at 60-48. From there, they slowly did enough to win their 18th straight home game. Led by Reynolds’ 9-for-10 mark, Villanova went 28 of 38 from the free-throw line.
“They make you pay for your mistakes and it’s hard to play a mistake-free game when they’re as good as they are,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said.
Tyrone Lewis scored 16 points and Rob Garrison had 15 for Niagara.
This was a homecoming of sorts for some of the Purple Eagles. Mihalich was a former La Salle standout and assistant coach for the Explorers, assistant coach Phil Martelli Jr. played at Saint Joseph’s for his father, and forward Bilal Benn transferred after playing two seasons for Villanova.
Niagara had their mini-run early in the second half to keep the game close. Lewis hit a 3-pointer and Benson Egemonye followed with a tough inside bucket and free throw. Another free throw cut the gap to 40-38, and the Villanova fans that came expecting to see another easy win were pretty quiet in the Pavilion.
Redding hit a 3 to give the Wildcats a little bit of space on the scoreboard, but it didn’t last long. Lewis and Garrison each sank 3-pointers and the deficit was back down to five.
The Purple Eagles just didn’t have enough left to finish off their Big East opponent.
“That might be the little stretch where we have some regrets,” Mihalich said. “We could have been a little bit better and we weren’t and they made us pay for it.”
Redding’s jumper capped a 9-0 spurt that was sorely needed once Dante Cunningham fouled out. Cunningham, who scored a career-high 31 against Fordham on Monday, finished with 11 points.
“We knew what we were doing, we just weren’t doing it well,” Wright said. “We got tentative against the zone and if you’re playing against the zone, you’ve got to make shots.”
This was a preliminary round game for the Philly Hoop Group Classic. The championship round games will be played Nov. 28-29 at the Palestra.
Niagara dropped its 18th straight game against ranked opponents and hasn’t beat a Top 25 team since a win over No. 4 St. John’s in 1984.
“We’ve got to look back and say that this game made us better,” Mihalich said.