JayVaughn Pinkston had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Maalik Wayns scored 25 points to lead Villanova to an 84-76 win over Seton Hall on Wednesday night.
James Bell scored 18 to help the Wildcats (9-10, 2-5 Big East) win for just the second time in seven games. Under coach Jay Wright, the Wildcats had been a perennial Big East contender. This season has been a struggle since late November and the Wildcats would have to get hot in a hurry to reach the NCAA tournament.
Pinkston and Bell gave them hope it might not be too late. Bell did his damage from long range and Pinkston worked inside and got to the free-throw line to hold off the Pirates (15-4, 4-3).
Bell's fourth 3-pointer late in the second half sealed the win.
Fuquan Edwin led Seton Hall with 14 points. The Pirates lost their second straight.
Pinkston, a highly touted recruit, was forced to sit out last season when the university suspended him after he was charged with assault. He couldn't set foot on campus, and the lost time hurt him at the start of this season. With his game legs under him, Pinkston responded with the best game of his career, making 13 of 17 free throws.
His biggest moment won't be found in the box score.
Pinkston grabbed a long rebound off a missed jumper and was shoved to the ground by Seton Hall's Brandon Mobley. Pinkston's eye bulged and he looked irate, but he didn't pursue Mobley, and players from both teams jumped in front of them to help them keep their composure.
He kept his cool, Villanova kept the lead.
Mobley was whistled for a flagrant foul and Pinkston calmly sank both free throws for a 53-47 lead.
The Pirates chipped away all game but couldn't get hot from 3-point range until too late.
Jordan Theodore was 0 for 9 until he hit a 3 that made it a five-point game. Aaron Cosby sank a 3, Villanova coughed up the ball, and the Pirates made 1 of 2 free throws to close within three.
Pinkston pushed them away for good. His sweet spin move around two defenders in the paint got him a bucket and a trip to the free-throw line. He swished it for a 62-56 lead.
Bell, who had six assists, hit a 3 for a 67-59 lead and that was enough for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats made 26 of 31 free throws in the second half. Wayns finshed 15 of 16 from the line.
The Pirates played the first half nothing like the team that had been one of the early surprises in college hoops. Seton Hall, whose first spot in the Top 25 in 11 years was a short one, missed 14 of 17 3-point attempts in the first half. Mobley went 3 for 3 and no one else could hit a shot.
Seton Hall missed 10 straight shots until a layup cut the hole to 10 points. Wayns, who scored 39 points Saturday at Cincinnati, led Villanova to a 37-28 lead at halftime.
Mobley scored 12 points and Herb Pope had 10.