VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP)—Scottie Reynolds is ready to prove Villanova is worthy of top billing in the brutal Big East.
Reynolds scored 22 points, Reggie Redding had 16 and No. 8 Villanova cruised in its final nonconference game, beating Delaware 97-63 on Wednesday night.
The Wildcats (11-1) used a string of big baskets from Reynolds, who keyed their Final Four run last season, to turn a tighter-than-expected game into an easy win in their final tuneup before conference starts.
“Our goal every game is to go out and play harder and more together than the other team,” Reynolds said. “Sometimes, that’s very difficult to do. But if we can do that and sustain that for 40 minutes, we have a chance to have a great game and, at the same time, a great Big East season.”
The Wildcats look strong with Redding, suspended for the first 10 games, back in the lineup heading into Big East play. Their only loss was against city rival Temple. The conference opener is Jan. 2 at Marquette.
“They’re not picked No. 1 in the Big East for no reason,” Delaware coach Monte Ross said.
The Wildcats received 10 first-place votes from conference coaches to finish in the preseason top spot. They’ll have to fight to finish the season there with Syracuse and West Virginia ranked higher than the Wildcats in this week’s AP poll.
“We’re interested to see how we’re going to stack up against those guys,” Reynolds said.
And they have Redding back for the rugged Big East schedule.
Redding is determined to make up for lost time. He had 15 points and nine rebounds in his first game back against Fordham and followed up with a 6-of-7 effort with six rebounds against the Blue Hens. Redding was 4 of 4 and scored 12 points in the first half.
“It felt great just to have the opportunity to play again and get to play with Scottie again and my teammates,” Redding said. “To come back home and play on our own court, I just give thanks to the community of Villanova for giving me another chance.”
Redding was charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia following an automobile accident in July. He eventually entered Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), but was suspended for violating university policy. His court record will be expunged if he stays out of trouble.
Redding, who was allowed to practice, walked into the press room with his left ankle and right elbow encased in ice. He brushed off the bruises and said he’d be ready for the next practice—no surprise to anyone at Villanova.
“He’s just been so consistent every day at practice,” coach Jay Wright said. “Our second team would beat our first team because he’d make a play. He just kept it going in the Fordham game and every day of practice leading up this game.”
He was one-third of one of the plays of the game in the first half, turning a rebound into an outlet pass to Reynolds, who pulled up in transition and fired to Dominic Cheek on the wing and he nailed a 3 for a 10-point lead.
The Redding-Reynolds-Cheek basket came during a 14-0 run that helped Villanova to a 48-32 halftime lead.
The Blue Hens pecked at the lead early in the second half on consecutive 3-pointers by Carter and D.J. Boney that made it 48-40.
Villanova hasn’t won 33 straight games at the Pavilion by letting teams like the Blue Hens stay close for long. On a night the Wildcats honored some of their former greats, Reynolds showed why he will soon be considered among them.
Reynolds, who removed his name from the NBA draft and returned for his senior year, sparked the Wildcats with a layup off a turnover in the open court. He followed with a 3-pointer, and hit another 3 that sparked a 12-0 game-changing run.
Reynolds hit his fifth 3 of the game for a 78-43 lead.
“I thought our guys competed, but that’s a terrific ballclub,” Ross said.
Taylor King had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Villanova.
Jawan Carter had 13 points for Delaware (3-8), which has never beaten a ranked team. The Blue Hens are 0-25 against teams ranked in The Associated Press’ poll and 0-14 against the Top 10.
The Wildcats have not lost at the Pavilion since Jan. 17, 2007. Of course, the streak comes with a bit of an asterisk. The Wildcats generally play their hardest Big East games at the home of the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wachovia Center.
Villanova plays three Top 25 Big East teams there this season.
The Wildcats played without forward Maurice Sutton (3.2 ppg) who sat out with an upper respiratory infection.