Cincinnati 82, Villanova 78

Dion Dixon scored 22 points in a fire-away offense, and

Cincinnati overcame Maalik Wayns’ 39-point performance Saturday,

rallying for an 82-78 victory over Villanova.

The Bearcats (14-4, 4-1 Big East) took the ball inside down the

stretch, converting a pair of three-point plays to take the lead

for good with 5 minutes left.

Villanova (8-10, 1-5) remained winless on the road this season

despite a career-best performance from its point guard. Wayns had

19 points in the first half, when the Wildcats shot 64 percent from

the field and led by as many as 10. He finished with a career-high

13 rebounds.

Wayns’ driving basket cut the lead to 81-78 with 6.6 seconds

left. Cashmere Wright was fouled on the inbound play and made the

first free throw to seal it.

Yancy Gates had 16 points and nine rebounds for Cincinnati, off

to its best start in league play since it joined in 2005-06.

Cincinnati’s defense is ranked second-best in the Big East, but

couldn’t handle Villanova’s outside shooters in the first half.

Wayns made seven of his eight shot, and the Wildcats – one of the

league’s worst 3-point shooting teams – went 10 of 16 from behind

the arc while surging to a 45-40 halftime lead.

Villanova couldn’t keep it up. The Wildcats shot only 28 percent

in the second half, allowing Cincinnati to catch up and nudge

ahead. The Bearcats made 6 of 8 free throws in the final 28

seconds, including four by Wright, who was only 2 of 14 from the

field.

Cincinnati had only three turnovers in the game, preventing

Villanova to get the fast break baskets that are a staple of their

offense. Villanova’s Dominic Cheek had 16 points in the first half

but finished with only 19, missing five of his six shots in the

second half.

Cincinnati has won nine of its last 10, including a 68-64

victory at No. 11 Georgetown on Monday set up by tough defense. The

Bearcats forced 17 turnovers and had 13 steals against the Hoyas,

relying on the one constant during their recent streak.

That defense struggled at the outset on Saturday.

Villanova was second-to-last in 3-point shooting in the Big

East, making only 24.7 percent, but found its touch to start the

game. The Wildcats made 4 of 5 from behind the arc to open the

game, pulling out to a 16-6 lead that forced Cincinnati to call a

timeout and regroup.

The Bearcats also came out firing away.

Dixon made four 3s during a 22-5 run over the next 4 minutes

that pushed it to 28-21. The Bearcats made six consecutive 3s

during the spurt, with Dixon leading the way. He hit his first five

shots overall, four of them from behind the arc.

Wayns hit back-to-back 3s during a 14-3 run that closed the half

and put Villanova up 45-40. Wayns also opened the second half by

hitting another 3 for an eight-point lead.

The run-and-gun pace stuck, with both teams shooting away.

Villanova cooled off fast, making only 3 of 15 shots to start the

second half. Cincinnati couldn’t do anything consistently, either,

resulting in five quick lead changes.