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Villanova sends Louisville to second straight loss

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Villanova evened their conference record and opened eyes around the Big East with a 73-64 win over No. 5 Louisville on Tuesday night.

The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center and a six-game skid against Big East teams that stretched to a 66-50 win over No. 25 West Virginia on Feb. 5, 2011.

The Wildcats ended a three-game losing streak in thrilling fashion, coming from behind in the second half to send the students rushing onto the court after the final buzzer sounded.

"I still think that team could win a national championship, and that's why that win means so much to us," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I just think that's a great team, and we played great tonight."

The loss was Louisville's second in a row since moving up to the No. 1 ranking in both the AP and coaches polls last week. A 70-68 loss at home to Syracuse on Saturday had already knocked them out of the top spot.

"This game was a tough one, but we've got to bounce back from it," Louisville senior guard Peyton Siva said. "We've got to learn from this loss, and everybody's got to come back ready to play."

After trailing by two at halftime, Louisville was up six with 8:25 remaining when a Gorgui Dieng layup made it 52-46. That was the last time the visitors would control the game.

Villanova (12-7, 3-3) cut down on its mistakes and retook the lead with 5:51 left on a Dan Ochefu putback. Achraf Yacoubou's 3-pointer from the right wing put the Wildcats up 56-53 with four minutes to play and James Bell capped the 13-1 spurt a minute later with another 3-pointer to extend the lead to six.

The Wildcats finished the game with 19 turnovers against Louisville's full-court press, but only struggled during the early portion of the second half when they gave it away six times in the first eight minutes. They turned the bal over just three more times the rest of the way.

"We turn the ball over so much, and we're so used to it, that when we turn it over it doesn't bother us," Wright said. "If you're a team that doesn't turn the ball over, and Louisville turns you over, it can freak you out. But we're so used to it, honest to God I wasn't worried about it."

Usually one of the better free-throw shooting teams in the Big East, Louisville (16-3, 4-2) struggled from the line. Their .710 percentage coming into the matchup was fourth best in the conference, but the Cardinals made just 12 of 24 (50 percent), including 7 of 18 in the second half. Chane Benahan had a particularly difficult night from the stripe, making only 3 of 9, including just 1 of 5 during Villanova's comeback.

"I was doing better for the last couple of games. I don't know what it was tonight," said Behanan, who entered the game making 57.1 percent of his free throws. "I felt like I was shooting the same way. I know when I get off the plane I'm going to go straight to the gym."

The Wildcats got double-digit efforts from five players, led by freshman Ryan Arcidiacono's 15. JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 off the bench.

Wayne Blackshear had a game-high 17 points for Lousville, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range while the rest of his teammates went a combined 1 of 10 from beyond the arc.

Playing in front of a friendly crowd, Villanova held its own in the first half.

The Wildcats held the Cardinals scoreless in a five-minute stretch early, forcing five missed shots and four turnovers during a 8-0 run that propelled Villanova to a 14-7 lead.

The Wildcats led by as many as 10 when a Tony Chennault 3-pointer, Villanova's fourth in as many attempts, made it 23-13 with 8:08 remaining in the first half.

However, Wright was forced to call timeout after a Blackshear dunk cut the lead to 23-21 less than 90 seconds later. That Louisville run stretched to 12-0, ending with 3:41 to play in the half on a Pinkston three-point play that gave Villanova a 26-25 lead.

Pinkston finished the first half with six points, including a layup with nine seconds left that sent Villanova into the locker room with a 30-28 lead. Darrun Hilliard also scored six points to help pace the Wildcats.

Louisville junior Russ Smith, the Big East's third-leading scorer at 19.3 points per game, had just four points in the first half on 1-of-7 shooting from the field. Blackshear had eight points and Siva had seven to lead the Cardinals at the break.

For the half, the Wildcats shot 11 of 25 (44 percent) from the floor to 10 of 28 (35.7 percent) by the Cardinals. Both teams turned the ball over 10 times over the opening 20 minutes.

NOTES: Villanova faces No. 3 Syracuse on Saturday afternoon. The last time the Wildcats played back-to-back, regular-season games against top-five opponents was Feb. 10 and 13, 1988 (No. 1 Temple, No. 5 Pittsburgh). ... The last time Louisville forward Luke Hancock played against Villanova, he scored 18 points to help George Mason knock the Wildcats out of the 2011 NCAA tournament. He hit the game-clinching 3-pointer with 20 seconds left. ... Louisville entered the game with the second-best turnover differential in the country (plus-7.5 per game).
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