Fisher's 24 leads Villanova over Bucknell

Villanova's Corey Fisher shoots against Bucknell defenders.
Villanova's Corey Fisher shoots against Bucknell defenders.
Posted: November 13, 2010

Like a new pair of store-bought shoes, basketball teams need a bit of breaking in before they're a comfortable fit.

The Villanova Wildcats may yet justify their No. 6 preseason ranking in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls, but they'll have to play sharper and more under control than they did in last night's season-opening 68-52 victory over pesky Bucknell at the Pavilion. Fortunately, 'Nova didn't have to be in midseason form against the Bison, who played smart and tough but lack the sort of elite athletes coach Jay Wright has assembled on the Main Line.

"You're not going to blow that team out," Wright said of Bucknell. "They're not going to let you. They grind and grind and grind."

Wright did not address the suspension of highly regarded freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston. He is being held out of games pending an internal investigation of an altercation over the weekend that led to his being charged by Upper Merion police with two counts of simple assault and harassment. In a statement released on Thursday by the university, Wright said, "JayVaughn is very aware of the seriousness of this matter and how it could impact the team. He understands there is a great lesson to be learned there."

Perhaps the Pinkston situation served as a distraction, or maybe the fast-paced Wildcats simply were lulled into thinking they were ready to hit triple figures after a 95-58 exhibition rout of the University of District of Columbia on Nov. 2.

Wright doesn't deny that his players like to force the action, and if that means taking a quick jump shot if the opportunity presents itself, so be it. But Bucknell proved more resistant to getting into an up-and-down kind of contest than was the U of DC.

The first half was more slow waltz than a go-go boogie. Both teams turned the ball over nine times, and they combined to shoot 15-for-50 (30 percent) from the floor. Villanova took a 28-16 lead into intermission on the strength of a 22-14 rebounding edge and the fact that the Bison, who sank only six of 25 shots, including two of 11 from beyond the arc, were even colder than the Wildcats (9-for-25).

"It was frustrating," Wright admitted of the first 20 minutes. "[The Bison were] not trapping, they're not pressing and we had nine turnovers."

But the home team had the Coreys, and they helped thwart a couple of Bucknell runs and extend Villanova's winning streak at the Pavilion to 38 games. The last time the Wildcats lost in their cozy on-campus facility was to DePaul on Jan. 6, 2007.

Senior guard Corey Fisher, now Villanova's undisputed go-to guy following the departure of All-America Scottie Reynolds, had a game-high 24 points, 17 of which came after the break, and swingman Corey Stokes added 11 points.

"It's a great feeling knowing that me, Stokes and Tone [senior forward Antonio Pena] are the leaders," Fisher said.

At times, Villanova threatened to run away and hide in the second half. The Wildcats led by as many as 17 points before Bucknell came . . . well, not exactly roaring . . . back, but chipping away. When freshman Cameron Ayers - the former Germantown Academy star, and son of former 76ers coach Randy Ayers - drained a three-pointer with 10 minutes, 36 seconds left, the Bison were within 45-38 and the crowd of 6,500 was feeling somewhat anxious.

But Villanova went on a 6-0 spurt to lead by 13, and that spread fell below double digits only once thereafter. Fisher, who missed five of his six shots in the first half, heated up, some of his finer moments coming when Wright needed him to sink a big shot. When guard Maalik Wayns dropped in a pair of free throws with 51 seconds left, 'Nova had its biggest spread at 68-50.

Maybe that 100-point game will come Tuesday, when Villanova hosts Marist in the first round of the NIT. And if the Wildcats don't get it, it won't be for lack of trying.

"We do want to score a hundred," Wright said. "We do like to play fast. But we couldn't speed them up. If we could have forced [the Bison] into quick shots, we would."

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