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Villanova’s Reynolds wins game at the line

Saint Joseph's Ahmad Nivins (right) and Villanova's Dante Cunningham fight for a rebound in Thursday's basketball game in Philadelphia.

Saint Joseph's Ahmad Nivins (right) and Villanova's Dante Cunningham fight for a rebound in Thursday's basketball game in Philadelphia.

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Scottie Reynolds ends every Villanova practice by shooting free throws that simulate the score and the clock like the game is on the line.

The Wildcats call the drill, “Win the game.”

That’s exactly what Reynolds did when Villanova needed him in that spot when it counted.

Reynolds scored 18 points and sank the winning free throws with 4.8 seconds left to lift No. 15 Villanova to a 59-56 win over Saint Joseph’s on Thursday night.

“That’s the greatest thing you can give a player is the ball in your hands at the end of the game,” Reynolds said. “It’s the best thing you can give a player.”

Reynolds was fouled on a driving layup down the lane to put the Wildcats (9-1) in position for the victory over their city rival. The 87-percent free-throw shooter made the first and swished the second for a 57-56 lead.

“With that little amount of time, we’re always going to put it in his hands,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

Dante Cunningham stole in the in-bounds pass, was fouled and clinched the win with two free throws, sending the Villanova student section into a frenzy. Cunningham scored 14 points.

Villanova trailed most of the second half and appeared on the brink of losing for the second straight season to the Hawks (4-5). Ahmad Nivins, who scored 16 points, hit two free throws with 44 seconds left to give Saint Joseph’s a 56-55 lead.

Playing only two nights after No. 6 Texas beat them 67-58 at Madison Square Garden, the Wildcats took over from there and won their second city series game of the season.

“There was a period there we looked a little heavy legged,” Wright said, “but by the end, we gutted it out with our depth.”

Darrin Govens had the Hawks hopeful of an upset with a hot hand from 3-point range, going 6-for-11 from outside the arc and leading them with 18 points.

“There’s still some doubt in our guys on whether or not they can play at the highest level and hopefully this 40 minutes will convince them and it doesn’t have to be just me chirping at them,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.

Women’s top 25

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Shekinna Stricklen scored a career-high 20 points as No. 7 Tennessee beat Middle Tennessee 81-52 on Thursday night.

The young Lady Vols (7-1), who have struggled with their shooting this season, made a season-best 50.8 percent against the Blue Raiders (5-4).

No. 14 Rutgers 58, Prairie View 56: At Piscataway, N.J., Epiphanny Prince scored 13 points, including the go-ahead basket with 35 seconds to play, as No. 14 Rutgers avoided an upset.

Held in check for most of the game, Prince scored Rutgers’ final five points. Heather Zurich and Brittany Ray also had 13 points each as the Scarlet Knights (5-2) won their 18th straight at home.

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