VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Forward James Bell
scored 21 of his game-high 27 points after halftime as No. 9 Villanova pulled away for a 81-58 victory over Xavier on Monday for the Wildcats' 20th win of the season.
The Wildcats, who led by as many as 11 points in the first half, put some distance between themselves and the Musketeers with a 15-4 run midway through the second half, turning a four-point advantage into a 51-36 lead with 11:56 remaining.
The charge was led by Bell and junior shooting guard Darrun Hilliard
. The pair combined to score 19 straight Villanova points during an 6:38 stretch after intermission. Hilliard finished with 15 points for Villanova (20-2, 8-1 Big East), while forward JayVaughn Pinkston had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Bell's shooting was a big reason Villanova expanded the lead as the game went on. He finished just three off his career high, going 6-of-10 from 3-point range and 10-of-14 overall as his team shot just under 50 percent (32-of-65) overall.
Xavier (15-7, 5-4) lost its third straight game.
Sophomore guard Semaj Christon led the Musketeers with 17 points while junior center Matt Stainbrook had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Xavier forward Justin Martin scored 13 despite playing just 15 minutes due to foul difficulties.
Pinkston was just 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc before Monday's game. However, he hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half to help the Wildcats to a 28-22 lead at intermission.
Villanova used its defense to take control of the game at the outset. The Wildcats held Xavier to 2-of-9 shooting and five turnovers in the first six-plus minutes as they opened up an early 10-point lead.
The Musketeers were able to slow the Wildcats down later in the half, as Villanova made just two of its final 10 shots of the half.
Xavier struggled with turnovers all half, giving the ball away 11 times to Villanova's three, though the Musketeers would settle down somewhat and finish with 16 for the game. The Musketeers came into the game with the Big East's worst turnover margin (-1.2 per game) and forced the Wildcats into giving up it just seven times.
NOTES: Villanova wore its alternate home gray uniforms for the first time. ...Villanova led the all-time series 16-4 coming into Monday night. The only other time Xavier visited the Pavilion was during the 1994 National Invitation Tournament, when Villanova won by two points. ...The 22 points Xavier scored in the first half was a team low for points in a half this season. The Musketeers scored 23 points in a half on two previous occasions, on Nov. 29 at Tennessee and on Dec. 14 against Cincinnati. ... Villanova improved to 10-0 at its on-campus stadium, with its only home loss of the season coming against Creighton at the Wells Fargo Center.
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