ALBANY, New York (Ticker) -- Tommy Mitchell scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half as Siena pulled away for a 74-59 victory over shorthanded Villanova in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Facing a Wildcats' squad reduced to seven players due to the illegal use of a campus phone access code by several players, the Saints struggled in the first half, shot under 35 percent (9-of-26) and trailed, 28-26.
But Siena (20-10) got it going in the second half and, after forging a 42-42 tie, scored the next eight points to pull ahead with 9:44 remaining.
The Saints, who trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, wore down the Wildcats (15-16) with a barrage of 3-pointers and tight defense. Reserve Austin Andrews hit both of his 3-pointers during the key run as Siena shot 8-of-10 from beyond the arc in the second half after a 2-of-13 effort in the first half.
Mitchell shot just 2-of-7 in the opening 20 minutes but was 4-of-5 after intermission. A 36 percent 3-point shooter, he was 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Mitchell's big night helped offset a sub-par showing by Prosper Karangwa. Siena's leading scorer, Karangwa had just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting, but the Saints avenged a loss to Villanova in the 1994 NIT semifinals.
Making their fourth straight NIT appearance, the Wildcats were led by freshman Curtis Sumpter's season-high 23 points.
Villanova concluded a season loaded with high expectations on a down note. Thanks to a strong freshman class, the Wildcats were expected to reach the NCAA tournament. But they ended coach Jay Wright's second season with a six-game losing streak.
Its starting lineup of Sumpter, Derrick Snowden, Marcus Austin and freshmen Allan Ray and Randy Foye played all but nine minutes and shot 44 percent (19-of-43) following a 10-of-19 shoting in the first half.
Villanova used a 23-4 run to overcame an early 14-5 deficit. The Wildcats held the Saints without a basket for two stretches of more than three minutes.
Siena next faces Illinois-Chicago or Western Michigan.