Rutgers Drops Big East Opener to 'Nova 81-65

Rutgers went on the road to open Big East play, and after leading by four at the half Villanova pulled away and won 81-65 Sunday. Corey Stokes scored 21 of his game-high 23 points after halftime. Jonathan Mitchell had 17 points to lead the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers did more than hang tough at No. 8 Villanova.

The Scarlet Knights led by four points at the half, then saw the Wildcats guard Corey Stokes take over down the stretch as he scored 21 of his game-high 23 points in a 81-65 win in the Big East opener for both schools at Villanova.

Villanova (12-1) shot 53.5 percent from 3-point range while the Scarlet Knights shot 23.1 percent, but it was the play of Stokes that did Rutgers (9-4) in. He scored eight points in the opening 2:11 of the second half as the Wildcats erased a 37-33 deficit with an 11-0 spurt after intermission.

"We didn't exactly follow the formula, follow the game plan," Rutgers coach Mike Rice told the media afterward. ‘Too many Corey Stokes (baskets). In the first half, I thought we did a tremendous job of limiting his touches, not giving him any open threes. It started with a couple of poorly defended out-of-bounds plays and the flood gates opened from there."

It is the second straight loss for the Scarlet Knights, who open the home portion of the Big East schedule Wednesday against Marquette.

"This team – you could see it in their eyes – they were looking for something bad to happen in the first four minutes (of the second half)," Rice said. "They have to get used to competing. They have to get used to winning, playing winning basketball. That is something they will have to figure out. That is a belief. That is just more of a mental toughness. That 11-0 run doomed us."

Senior Jonathan Mitchell led Rutgers with 17 points. Point guard James Beatty added 14 and center Gilvydas Biruta scored 12 points in his first league game.

"(Stokes) got hot, but it wasn't things that they did," Beatty told reporters. "it was things that guys on our team (didn't do). We got out of our formula. We did some things that we shouldn't have done. He got open for some threes.

"Like coach said, you can't zone out. You can't black out. A couple times guys that were guarding him blacked out and he got open touches. That can't happen with someone that shoots the ball as well as he does. Any good look, he is not missing it. We beat ourselves with letting someone like him get open looks. You just can't do that."


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