The final was 83-71. It was the eighth straight win for Villanova's (13-1, 2-0 Big East), in its conference road opener. For South Florida (6-10, 0-3), which was coming off an overtime loss at Connecticut, this was its first double-digit loss.
"We actually talked about almost getting beat [here]," said coach Jay Wright, whose team will begin a three-game home stand on Sunday afternoon against unbeaten Cincinnati at the Pavilion, where the Wildcats have won 44 in a row. "And that was two of our best teams.
"When you have four seniors, that really helps you get that through to the [rest of the] guys. It's one thing to have a coach say it. But they knew how well we were going to have to play.
"Anyone in this league can beat you. It comes down to your players understanding that, and demanding that. That's really important. When you play on the road, they have to get ready or you're not. That's how this league is. Sometimes there can be such a small difference. They had that game at UConn. So that's how good they are. This is a good win for us."
The Wildcats' next away test will come on Jan. 17, at UConn. Five days later, they'll be at Syracuse.
But first steps first.
Stokes went 5-for-5 from the arc and finished with a game-best 22 points, six above his team-high average. All but three came in the second half. Cheek made all six of his shots, and all four from three, to match a career high with 17 in 22 minutes off the bench. Corey Fisher (12 points, six assists, five steals) was the only other guy to try a triple, but he went 0-for-3. Didn't matter.
And when the Wildcats, who, other than Stokes, have had their issues from the perimeter, convert like that . . .
"I think we have one guy making shots right now," said Wright, whose team went 19-for-36 from two. "The other two [Fisher and Malik Wayns] aren't. [Stokes] is our go-to guy, our leader in every way. And [Cheek] is his protégé."
Cheek, a rangy wing sophomore, had been 13-for-40 from the arc. Stokes is now 47-for-100. And after hitting all five of his free throws, he's 49-for-52 at the line.
"People do that when they're by themselves in the gym," USF coach Stan Heath said. "They did it effortlessly."
The Wildcats, who had 21 assists and nine turnovers, got virtually nothing from center Mouphtaou Yarou in 18 foul-plagued minutes. But Wayns had nine assists for the second straight game, to go with 16 points (10-for-12 on freebies). And Antonio Pena, the good soldier, scored 11 and had seven boards. So his 1-for-6 at the line becomes an afterthought.
"I always think every shot I take is going in," Stokes said. "My teammates feel the same way. Coach told me to come out in the second half and be a killer.
"I knew Cheek when he was young. He lived 10 minutes from me [in North Jersey]. I've worked with him on his jumper, changed his form, kept a positive attitude. He's young. I was young once."
Stokes came to the Main Line with a lot of expectations. And now, he's playing like someone who's learned his lessons, sometimes the hard way. It's his turn to show the way.
"We have a lot of shooters," Cheek said. "Some days, I might have it going. He has it going every day.
"My job isn't [just] to make three-pointers. I'm out there to help the team, do whatever they need me to do."
Augustus Gilchrist topped three USF double-digit scorers, with 16. He also had 10 boards. But the Bulls shot only 41 percent, 26 from deep.
"We threw a lot of things at them," Heath acknowledged. "They're a very good team at exploiting some different areas. They had answers, in every way. We just didn't have the ones we needed."
In this neighborhood, you take them whenever and however you can.
"It's just the Big East," Wright said. "It's the next game. You know Cincinnati's coming in expecting to win."
Ready or not.