VILLANOVA, Pa. -- For the first six minutes, James Bell kept pace with Lafayette on his own.
Bell scored Villanova’s first 13 points, including an electrifying one-handed throw-down off of an alley-oop from Darrun Hilliard in the Wildcats' 75-59 victory over the Leopards.
Bell would score only 11 points the rest of the game after that initial spurt on a night when Villanova had difficulty making much of anything. Villanova (1-0) finished the game shooting just 38.9 percent from the field, going 5 for 30 from three in the process.
After hanging tight with the Wildcats in the first half, the Leopards (0-1) jumped out to a six-point lead on the back of three shots from downtown midway through the second half.
The Wildcats ultimately relied on most of its major contributors -- Bell, Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston -- to lead a comeback in the second half.
Ryan Arcidiacono didn’t make a basket until 1:49 remaining in the contest, when he finished a tough drive despite getting fouled.
With the contest tied at 47, the Wildcats proceeded to score 11 of the next 15 points to open up their largest lead of the game, one they would keep for good.
The run featured threes from Bell and Hilliard, while Pinkston worked hard to get to the hole.
Bell kept the Wildcats in it early, and his three-pointer with less than 10 minutes to go broke that 47-47 tie.
Despite not shooting particularly well, Bell finished the game with 24 points, going 7 for 16 from the field.
While the Wildcats worked their way back for the win, Villanova may not have had the opportunity to do so had Lafayette not coughed up the ball 16 times on the night. By comparison, Villanova turned the ball over only seven times.
Second half surge
Pinkston caught fire late, scoring 14 second-half points to lead Villanova back from its deficit. He finished the game with 22 points.
With the shots not falling from long range, Pinkston forced the issue inside, getting Lafayette to foul him more often than not. He sank 10 free throws in the win.
Villanova stays at home for a game against Mount St. Mary’s Tuesday at 7 p.m. The matchup will be the first between the teams since Nov. 27, 1998.