NEWARK, N.J. - In the cold hallways of the Prudential Center after yet another heated Big East game, Villanova's Dante Cunningham talked of how coach Jay Wright wants the depth of his team to be a positive.
Last night against Seton Hall, regulars Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes were each held scoreless. Didn't matter. Scottie Reynolds took care of most of the offense, Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson controlled the backboards and Reggie Redding came off the bench and turned in a stellar defensive performance.
When it was all added up, No. 18 Villanova escaped with an 89-85 overtime win to improve to 13-2, 1-1 in the conference. Seton Hall dropped to 9-6, 0-3.
"It shows our depth, coach always talks about making our depth a positive," Cunningham said. "Maybe Stokes and Fisher didn't play as much tonight, but they were jumping around just as much on the bench as we were on the court. That's always good, because another night, it will be one of them on the court and we have to do the same thing."
Reynolds tied his career high with 40 points, including five three-pointers and 15-for-16 shooting from the foul line. He continually was able to beat Seton Hall's trio of mercurial guards, Paul Gause, Jordan Theodore and Eugene Harvey.
Cunningham collected 21 points and 13 rebounds, while Anderson pulled down 15 boards to go with nine points.
But it was the second-half play of Redding, specifically on the defensive end, that propelled the Wildcats to their first conference win of the season.
Villanova trailed, 37-35, at the intermission, largely because of the scoring of wiry 6-5 guard Jeremy Hazell. The sophomore poured in 19 points in the first 20 minutes, 15 of them coming from beyond the arc.
Villanova, which had Reynolds (18) and Cunningham (10) combine for 28 of their points in the first half, opened a 27-20 lead on a 10-footer by Cunningham, but Hazell hit three treys in the final 2 minutes, 42 seconds to help the Pirates grab the halftime lead.
That's when Redding made his presence felt. His assignment, after playing only 3 minutes in the first half, was to shut down Hazell. He did. Hazell scored only seven points the rest of the game. After his jumper gave the Pirates a 47-40 lead with 15 minutes, 24 seconds left in the game, he didn't score again until there was 9.2 seconds left. That was a prayer of a three-pointer that was answered after clanging off the backboard. On his shot, Hazell looked as though he was more concerned with drawing a foul than scoring the basket. It tied the scored at 76-76 and, eventually, sent the game into overtime. Redding held Hazell, the league's No. 2 scorer (22.9 coming in), scoreless in the extra period.
"I don't think it was just me, it was more of a team effort at times," said Redding, who also finished with 10 points and didn't sit out after the first half. "We just said one person isn't going to be able to do it, it's going to be a team effort, so I just tried to make him drive the ball and not let him get easy shots. My team helped me out and we did it."
When Reynolds hit three free throws with 4:22 left, it gave the Wildcats their biggest lead of the night at 70-62. But Harvey (19 points) scored seven of the next 14 points for Seton Hall, and Hazell's improbable shot extended the game.
"I really give them a lot of credit and I give our guys a lot of credit as well," said Wright. "After Hazell banked in the three, I know that our guys just had to suck it up and get it done."
The depth played a big part, but no one shined as much as Reynolds, who sported a huge ice pack on his shooting shoulder after the game.
"I had a couple of lucky ones, a travel [that wasn't called] and I made it on a fastbreak," Reynolds admitted. "Some of the threes I hit in transition coming off the screen, they were bad ones, but they were open ones. That was the difference.
"It was a collective effort. I knew they were gonna come after me. You just have to be strong with the ball. When a team comes after you like that, you can't really run an offense, you can't really run plays. Even though coach is calling plays, you just have to take the offense [that's given]."
"Just another typical road game in the Big East, just what we expected," said Wright.