By Harry Allison
Justin Moore (above) had 25 points off the bench and Saddiq Bey had 19 as 22nd-ranked Villanova escaped with an 83-72 win over visiting La Salle.
Villanova (5-2) went on a 28-6 run midway through the first half to build a 48-28 cushion at halftime. The Explorers closed within 10 twice in the second half thanks to some pesky defense that held the Wildcats without a field goal for over seven minutes. Villanova also committed 12 turnovers in the second half, helping La Salle hang around.
“They made better adjustments than us at halftime,” Cats coach Jay Wright said. “They played hard and we made mistakes that an inexperienced team makes. Juniors who haven’t been go-to guys and sophomores who haven’t been leaders. But they are learning.”
Ed Croswell led La Salle (4-3) with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds. David Beatty had 12 points for the Explorers.
“I’m proud of the way that our guys battled,” said La Salle coach Ashley Howard, who was an assistant to Wright from 2013-18, a span that included two national titles. “We battled, but the first half we let the game get away from us with turnovers and poor transition defense.”
Moore scored 15 points in the first half to help Villanova build the lead. Bey and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl each had 10 rebounds.
“We have to learn how to come out and play hard for 40 minutes,” Moore said. “We had a great first half, but we have to match that intensity in the second half.”
Collin Gillespie contributed 14 points for the Wildcats, who have won seven in a row against their Philadelphia Big Five City Series rival and improved to 26-1 since 2012-13 against the four other Division I schools in the unique college basketball association. The only loss in that span for the Wildcats came on Dec. 11, 2018, to Penn.