VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Villanova, facing a 12-point second-half deficit and seeing its NCAA tournament hopes flickering, rallied back for a 71-63 Big East win over Rutgers Monday night at the Pavilion.
Villanova led by six 7½ minutes into the game before Rutgers went on a 16-1 run while Villanova missed 11 straight shots and didn’t make a basket for 10½ minutes.
Rutgers built its lead up to 12 at 33-21 in the opening seconds of the second half before Villanova finally got going.
James Bell, who missed his first four three-point attempts, made consecutive bombs 42 seconds apart to cap a 16-4 Villanova run that turned a nine-point deficit with 15 minutes left into a three-point lead, and Rutgers never recovered.
Freshman Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston each scored 14 points for Villanova. Arcidiacono added four assists, Hilliard had three rebounds, three steals and two assists, and Pinkston added five rebounds and three assists. Bell added 11 points and Mouphtaou Yarou had eight points, 12 boards and two blocks.
Villanova doesn’t have a huge margin of error to return to the NCAA tourney after missing it last year, and a loss to a Rutgers team that’s lost seven of its last eight games could have been fatal.
The Wildcats, now 17-10 overall, clinched a winning record one year after going 13-19.
Villanova has now won four of its last five games and improved to 8-6 in the Big East with four games left – Marquette at home Saturday, Seton Hall in Newark Monday, at Pitt on March 3 and Georgetown at home on March 6.
Rutgers, playing its first game without leading scorer Eli Carter, who broke his leg in a loss to DePaul Saturday, fell to 13-12 and 4-10 in Big East action. The Scarlet Knights have lost seven of eight since a 12-5 start.
Villanova shot 7 for 14 from the foul line in the first half (50 percent) and 18 for 22 (82 percent) in the second half.
By the numbers
The biggest previous deficit Villanova overcame this year was eight points in a win over Purdue.
Rutgers sophomore guard Myles Mack, from St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, scored 16 straight Rutgers points at one point and finished with 24. He came into tonight averaging 13.2.
Rutgers had 10 of its 15 offensive rebounds in the second half.
Villanova is off until Saturday, when the Wildcats face Marquette at 6 p.m. at the Pavilion in a national TV game.