Cheek scores 17, No. 4 Villanova wins 8th in row
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP)—Villanova brought the Jersey Boys back home and did they ever do a job on Rutgers.
Dominic Cheek, Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher—who all played high school basketball in New Jersey—combined for 48 points on 18 of 30 shooting from the field and the fourth-ranked Wildcats rolled to their eighth straight win with a 94-68 victory over reeling Rutgers on Wednesday night.
“It’s a great opportunity to come home and play in front of your friends,” said Fisher, who scored 15 points as the Wildcats (17-1, 6-0 Big East) matched the school’s best start since 1963-64. “But you have to come out and give it up for your teammates, and that’s what our freshman Dominic Cheek did. Stokes played good and I just tried to come out and have a good game today.”
Before the game, Villanova coach Jay Wright reminded the Jersey guys that the last time they came to Rutgers two years ago they tried to do too much and got beat. He even joked about Stokes throwing up a 40-footer on his first shot from the field.
This time, the Jersey kids were on point as they helped the Wildcats build a 22-point halftime lead. They never were threatened.
“We definitely remember what happened two years ago and we explained it to the freshman,” said Stokes, who scored 16 points. “We just talked about not going out there playing for yourself but playing for Villanova and the whole program.”
Stokes and Fisher both talked to Cheek before the game.
“Coach talked to me and said just because I’m playing in front of family don’t get a big head, still play 40 minutes of Villanova basketball,” Cheek said after pacing the Wildcats with a career-high 17 points.
Thanks to No. 12 Georgetown’s 74-66 win over No. 9 Pittsburgh, Villanova is now the only undefeated team in Big East play. The last time the Wildcats started 6-0 in the conference was 1981-82.
Freshman Dane Miller scored 22 of his 26 points in the second half for Rutgers (9-9, 0-6), which lost its seventh straight. Hamady Ndiaye added 12 points before fouling out.
“They just were tougher than us,” Ndiaye said. “That’s about it, I think. The toughness. They brought it to a whole different level and we didn’t bring it. We could have been a whole lot tougher, box out and everything, but we just didn’t bring it as a team. That proved very bad for us.”
Villanova overpowered Rutgers with a 10-man rotation that built a 47-25 halftime lead. The starters combined for 24 points and the reserves totaled 23.
Senior guard Scottie Reynolds, the conference player of the week after averaging 31.5 points, didn’t make his first field goal until 3 minutes into the second half. He finished with nine points.
“We have depth,” Wright said. “We’ve got depth and we can score. We have to get a little bit better defensively and a little better on the boards, but we can score.”
The Wildcats led by 32 early in the final half and the only thing Rutgers could hope to do was make the score respectable.
After Mike Coburn hit a drive and Mike Rosario a 3-pointer to get Rutgers within 21-15, Villanova took control by closing the half with 26-10 spurt.
Stokes started the run with a spin move and a reverse layup and Fisher followed with a rebound basket and two free throws.
After a three-point play by Ndiaye, Fisher drove the lane for a basket, Mouphtaou Yarou hit a 10-footer and Isaiah Armwood scored twice in the lane in an 8-1 run that stretched the lead to 35-19.
Stokes, who was 6 of 10 from the field, added another 3-pointer before the half ended.
The closest the Scarlet Knights got in the second half was 70-54 on tip-in by Coburn. After a Villanova turnover, Miller missed a 3-pointer and Reynolds hit a 3-pointer to end any hope of a comeback.