"We really struggled in the first half and got in foul trouble," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We just came out and gutted it out. We made it ugly in the second half. Having no turnovers . . . unbelievable."
Five Wildcats finished in double figures. Freshman Ryan Arcidiacono scored 14 points, as did Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston. James Bell scored 11, all in the second half, and Mouphtaou Yarou had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"We just have a trust in each other that no matter what happens, up or down, we're going to stick together and continue to do what we do," Arcidiacono said. "We struggled in the first half and we didn't play the game we wanted to play. In the second half, we set the tone of what the rest of the game was going to be and that was big."
Rutgers (13-12, 4-10), which lost for the eighth time in its last nine games, played without leading scorer Eli Carter, out for the season with a broken leg suffered Saturday night. Myles Mack, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard, had 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Mack carried the Scarlet Knights in first half, scoring 14 points in a 23-7 surge during the final 12 minutes that gave his team its 10-point halftime lead. Villanova hit only two of its last 13 shots and 6 of 20 for the half.
The Wildcats went to the press in the second half and repeatedly drove to the basket. They converted 12 of 14 free throws in the opening 8:38 of the period and took the lead, 44-43, when Tony Chennault sank both ends of a one-and-one. Bell then hit back-to-back threes, after missing his first four attempts from deep.
With the help of 20 second-half points in the paint, the Scarlet Knights were within one possession often in the final eight minutes but never could get the tying points. Arcidiacono and Bell drained treys to extend the 'Nova lead to 65-58 with 2:45 to play and the Wildcats came home with the win.
Contact Joe Juliano at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.