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Villanova basketball recovers from losing streak, beating Canisius in AdvoCare Invitational

The Wildcats did enough to push their record to 3-2 and stop their losing skid at two games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Villanova forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (21) during the Wildcats' Thanksgiving win over Canisius.
Villanova forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (21) during the Wildcats' Thanksgiving win over Canisius.Read morePHELAN M. EBENHACK / AP

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – There's still plenty for Villanova to work on.

The defending national champions bounced back on Thanksgiving Day, dropping Canisius, 83-56, in the first game of the AdvoCare Invitational at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Still, the team that got hammered by Michigan and followed that up with an overtime loss at home to Furman is searching for chemistry.

In front of a raucous Villanova crowd – only a handful of Canisius shirts could be found in the stands at HP Field House – the Wildcats did enough to push their record to 3-2 and stop their losing skid at two games.

The Wildcats outrebounded Canisius, 51-24, and dominated scoring in the paint, 32-16.

"I don't think we have one big thing," coach Jay Wright said about his team's shortcomings. "It's all the little things. We kind of pride ourselves on attention to detail. As you can see, right now, we just don't have it. We've got a lot of new guys. But it was a good step for us today. I thought, a lot of good details defensively. A lot of good details on the glass."

Turnovers plagued Villanova throughout the first half, and Canisius survived multiple 'Nova runs, punching back with surges of their own.

"In the first half, we had two of our seniors and then our sophomore guard on the bench with foul trouble," Wright said. "We had a lot of new guys in there; it was really obvious with the turnovers. That's something we're going to have to improve upon throughout the season. The only way you do it is playing games, unfortunately.

"To be able to defend and rebound like we did today and be so sloppy, offensively, was actually a good experience for us."

The Wildcats, playing as an unranked team for the first time since the 2013-14 season, made enough early mistakes to allow Canisius to stay in the game. They committed 11 first-half turnovers, resulting in 9 points for the Golden Griffins.

"When we were in the AP Poll, we never talked about it, so when we're not in it, we don't talk about it," Wright said. "We were looking forward to playing better than we did against Furman and learning from that."

The Wildcats limited their turnovers to six in the second half, and fifth-year senior guard Phil Booth, who was saddled with two fouls in the first half, scored 10 of his 15 points over the final 20 minutes.

"I tried to just get the team going, make sure we came out strong defensively like we did in the first half," Booth said.

Canisius junior guard Isaiah Reese failed to hit a shot in the first half, but he came out firing after the break, scoring 11 straight points to cut Villanova's lead to nine with 16:18 left.  After a 'Nova timeout, the Wildcats went on a 12-2 run, and Canisius couldn't get within single digits again.

Reese led all scorers with 19 points.

Sophomore forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, eight off the offensive glass. At 6-foot-9, Cosby-Roundtree was frequently the tallest player on the court for either team. He did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 12 points with 10 rebounds.

"This is a different makeup of the team than we've had in the past," Wright said. "We've got some good length, good size. I think our defense and rebounding can be a good asset to us."

On Friday, Villanova will face Oklahoma State, which beat Memphis, 84-64.