Fisher leads No. 5 Villanova past Dayton 71-65
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Corey Fisher claims he never got nervous after No. 5 Villanova nearly gave up an 18-point lead to Dayton in the second half.
It showed at the free-throw line.
Fisher scored 18 points and was perfect in four trips to the foul line in the final minutes to help the Wildcats hold on for a 71-65 victory over the No. 18 Flyers on Friday in the second round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
“That’s basketball,” Fisher said. “We knew they were going to make a run. We just had to play Villanova basketball.”
The Wildcats (4-0) will play Mississippi, an 86-74 winner over Kansas State on Friday night, for the tournament title Sunday.
After trailing by 18 early in the second half, the Flyers (2-1) trimmed the lead to 62-60 with 2:23 left when London Warren converted two free throws after he was fouled on a breakaway.
Villanova, which finished 22 of 29 from the line, scored the rest of its points at the foul line, including four from Fisher in the waning moments.
Taylor King added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats, who defeated George Mason 69-68 in the first round Thursday. Antonio Pena added 13 points.
Villanova coach Jay Wright praised the aggressiveness that helped the Flyers climb back into the game.
“It was our night tonight but they’re as good as anyone in the country,” he said. “They do as good a job as anybody we play against at driving against the shooter.”
Villanova led 37-29 at halftime and went up 51-34 on a dunk by Antonio Pena, who was left alone inside the key. A 3-pointer by King gave the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game at 54-36 with 14 minutes to play.
The Flyers climbed back into the game by shooting 7 for 16 from behind the 3-point line in the second half.
Luke Fabrizius led the rally for Dayton, scoring nine of his 16 points in the second half along with his nine rebounds. Chris Wright added 15 points and Chris Johnson had 13.
“This early in the season I don’t think we handled the pressure that well,” Wright said.
The Wildcats held on by converting 9 of 10 free-throw attempts in the final 2:12 of the game. Fisher shot 10 for 12 from line.
Villanova outrebounded Dayton 43-35 and scored 13 points off Dayton’s 17 turnovers.
“We were sloppy. Sloppy offensively,” Dayton coach Brian Gregory said. “Give them credit. They did a lot of things that threw us out of sorts.”