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Villanova drops La Salle for 14th straight win over Big 5 opponent

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) -- Villanova pushed aside yet another Big 5 opponent.

Scottie Reynolds scored 19 points and Corey Fisher added 18 to help Villanova (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) close out December with a 71-58 victory over La Salle on Saturday night.

Dante Cunningham had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats (10-1), who won their sixth straight game and their sixth in a row over the Explorers.

Villanova picked up its 14th consecutive win over a Big 5 opponent, which also includes games against Penn, Temple and Saint Joseph's. Villanova hasn't dropped a Big 5 game since falling to Temple 53-52 on Dec. 4, 2004.

"I don't think they [freshmen] realize anything about the streak," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They haven't been here long enough. It's a good learning experience for them."

The Wildcats went 6-0 in December, and are 29-3 in November and December over the past three seasons.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but I can see progress," Wright said.

Darnell Harris scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half for the Explorers (4-7), who have lost three straight. Jerrell Williams added 12, Kimmani Barrett had 11 and Rodney Green 10. The Explorers have lost five straight Big 5 contests. They haven't beaten a ranked team since a victory over No. 18 Saint Joseph's on March 3, 2001.

"When we play this level team [Villanova], we can't have these ebbs and flows," La Salle coach John Giannini said.

Villanova maintained a double-figure lead through most of the second half. Williams hit one of two free throws with 3:14 remaining to cut the Villanova lead to 60-51. But Reynolds hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer for a 65-51 advantage with 2:19 left.

La Salle shot just 38 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers.

"It's expected every game," Giannini said of the turnovers. "It's just a little worse than average. It's no surprise."

The Wildcats trailed midway through the first half before putting together a 13-0 run to take a 28-17 lead with 8:08 remaining. Fisher scored the first nine points during the spurt -- a four-point play, jumper and a 3-pointer. Villanova then increased its advantage to 43-30 at halftime. Reynolds scored 10 of Villanova's final 11 points to close out the half.

Beginning Jan. 3 at De Paul, the Wildcats will embark on a critical 18-game conference schedule with one additional game against city rival Saint Joseph's on Feb. 4.

"It's definitely a marathon, the Big East season with 18 games," Wright said.

"None of us have been through that. It will be a war night in and night out," Fisher said.

Before the game, Villanova announced that sophomore center Casiem Drummond has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right ankle. There is no timetable for his return. Drummond started six of Villanova's first eight games and is averaging 7.1 points and 7.9 rebounds.