Down by eight points with 3:57 remaining, Villanova seemed destined to become the fifth 2-seed to fall to a 15-seed. Then, for perhaps the first time this season, the Wildcats got stops what they needed on defense against Robert Morris. Villanova rallied, forced overtime and eventually won its first game in over two weeks to advance to the second round.
“Phew,” said senior guard Scottie Reynolds. “I forgot what that felt like.”
It seemed like a cursed day from the start for Villanova. Head Coach Jay Wright decided before the game to bring Reynolds and junior guard Corey Fisher off the bench as a teaching point. What they did was not discussed after the game, but Reynolds tried to summed it up in his own way.
“You have to be excellent all the time,” said Reynolds. “You can’t have any of flaws.”
Reynolds’ team had many flaws in its first round game. The Wildcats were outrebounded 21-10 in the first half and trailed 28-22 at the break. Reynolds, Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena and Reggie Redding combined for six points in the first half.
The game was put in Reynolds’ hands in the second half, particularly when the team was trailing by eight with 3:57 remaining. Despite shooting 1-for-14 from the field, Reynolds was able to get to the line consistently in the final few minutes, hitting seven-of-eight free throws. Overall, Reynolds made 15-of-16 free throws and finished with 20 points.
Freshman guard Karon Abraham, who finished with 23 points, had all the answers for Robert Morris. When Villanova was rallying, Abraham hit every big shot the Colonials needed, including a layup to break a tie at 56 with 1:07 remaining.
On the next possession, freshman center Mouphtaou Yarou, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, hit a layup to tie the game.
Abraham missed a chance to take the lead with 39 seconds left, and the Wildcats were able to take the shot for the win. Reynolds held the ball for the majority of the clock, but he missed the layup, and it was tipped out of bounds with 0.9 seconds remaining. For the win, Villanova ran an alley-oop inbounds play to redshirt freshman center Maurice Sutton, but he was unable to to connect.
In overtime, Villanova quickly took control, scoring the first six points. While it controlled the game for most of the overtime, Robert Morris battled back and found themselves down three points with 39 seconds remaining. Villanova inbounded the ball to Stokes, but Colonials senio guard Mezie Nwigwe stole the ball from him and hit a layup to cut the score to 68-67.
Yarou, Redding and Reynolds hit five-of-six free throws, and Robert Morris trailed 73-70 with nine seconds remaining. Unable to get the ball to Abraham, the Colonials settled for a desperation three-point attempt by Nwige that was off the mark.
The loss was tough to swallow for the Colonials.
“My insides just got torn out,” said Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice, who was fighting off tears after the loss. “I’m just proud to coach them.”
His team, who played the role of David well against the most recent Goliath, received a standing ovation from the Providence crowd as he left the floor.
As was first reported by The Villanovan, Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher will not start for Villanova today. Instead Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes will take their place in the lineup.
Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com, is reporting that the incident has nothing to with off-court issues.
For the first time since 2003, Villanova was one-and-done in the Big East tournament. Instead of using the tournament as a way to start a turnaround, the Wildcats suffered their fifth loss in the last seven games. Let’s look at the latest of those defeats:
- Marquette was unbelievably hot from beyond the arc. It hit all six of its attempts in the second half. More than anyone else it was Darius Johnson-Odom who hurt the Wildcats. He was 5-for-7 from deep and finished with 24 points.
- One of the reasons the Golden Eagles were able to shoot so well from deep was their patience on offense. They routinely wound the shot clock down and waited for an open three. Villanova was often too slow to rotate, and Marquette was rewarded for its patience.
- The dagger was a Lazar Hayward 3-point shot that broke a 70-70 tie with 1:51 remaining. The Wildcats never managed to tie the game again.
- The win for Marquette was sweet revenge after losing four straight to Villanova. The last four meetings between the teams have been decided by a combined nine points.
- Scottie Reynolds played possibly his worst game of the Big East season. He hit just four of ten shots and finished with 10 points. He now stands 49 points behind Kerry Kittles for the the most points in Villanova history. The Wildcats would likely have to advance to the Sweet 16 for him to break the mark.
- Villanova got off to a very slow start, and one of the reasons why was its 10 first half turnovers. Effects of the double-bye or just the standard for Villanova now?
- Corey Stokes was clearly the Wildcats best player, scoring 22 points off the bench. He hit eight of nine shots, including six of seven from long range.
- Maalik Wayns had one of his better games in recent memory, scoring eight points off the bench.
- One Wildcat who had a particularly poor performance was Reggie Redding. He shot 1-for-9 from the field and finished with just two points. He also took a very questionable shot with Villanova down 73-70 with 1:20 remaining when he forced a layup in traffic. The Wildcats never had the ball down one score again. Despite the performance, Redding led the team with 38 minutes.
- Taylor King, who’s status was questionable until Tuesday, played two minutes, committed a reckless foul and was then benched for the rest of the game. Isaiah Armwood didn’t play at all.
- The Wildcats only committed 17 fouls, held the rebounding advantage and shot a higher-percentage than Marquette but still lost.
- After the game Reynolds made a very interesting comment by saying that he felt the Wildcats were better now than they were when they were ranked No. 2 in the country. Whether its delusion or trying to remain confident, the Wildcats do not sound like a team that is free-falling the last month.
– David Cassilo
At halftime, Villanova led 29-16. It’s defense looked like it had finally come together, and it appeared that the team would get a much needed confidence building victory heading into the Big East tournament.
How quickly things can change.
West Virginia outscored Villanova 44-31 in the second half, and the Wildcats needed a Corey Fisher 3-point shot with 7.7 seconds left to send the game to overtime. In the extra session, the teams were tied at 66-66 when Da’Sean Butler blew by Reggie Redding for a layup to put his team ahead with 5.8 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats had a chance to win it when the play that Jay Wright drew up worked perfectly, leaving Scottie Reynolds wide open in the corner for a 3-pointer after a pass from Redding, but Reynolds’ shot clanked off the back of the rim as time expired.
The result was a devastating 68-66 loss for Villanova to put a cap on a disappointing finish to the regular season. Villanova dropped five of its last nine games to finish 24-6 overall and 13-5 in the Big East.
The game began to slip into West Virginia’s favor early in the second half when the Wildcats committed six fouls in the first 5:02. By the 9:30 mark Villanova already had nine (two of which were questionable holds away from the ball), and Wright lost his cool and received a technical.
After the technical, the calls began to fall back into Villanova’s favor, and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins became irate and received a technical too. The game was called poorly for both sides on Saturday.
In the end, it wasn’t the officiating that did Villanova in but instead the play of Butler. With Villanova up 55-53 in regulation, Butler hit a wide-open 3-point shot from the top of they key to give his team a 56-55 lead with 52 seconds remaining. His heroics continued later on the game-winning shot in overtime. He finished the contest with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite missing the game-winner, Reynolds once again led the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points. He now stands at 2,184 points for his career, trailing Kerry Kittles by 59 for the school record.
Reynolds did appear a bit beaten up in the game. He fell hard to the floor numerous times, including a play where he jumped over the CBS commentators. He was grimacing often in the second half and did not appear to be 100 percent.
Fisher and Redding also had double-figures in scoring for Villanova with 12 and 10, respectively. Junior Corey Stokes continued his strong play since moving to the bench as he finished with 11 points.
One player who remained on that bench for Villanova was Taylor King. Jay Wright said that King did not play Saturday because of a “teaching point.”
The loss has Villanova most likely slated for the four-seed in the Big East tournament, barring an upset by Rutgers at Pittsburgh. If it is the four-seed, Villanova’s first game would be 2 p.m. on Thursday against the winner of Marquette and its yet to be determined opponent.
– David Cassilo
At times it wasn’t pretty, but Villanova got the job done as it knocked off the Bearcats to pick up a road win. The victory may not have been enough to silence doubts, but a win is a win. Here’s a look at the most important aspects of the game:
- Remarkably, the first 13 points of the game were scored by Antonio Pena, Corey Stokes and Mouphtaou Yarou. Stokes had a particularly strong start, scoring 10 points in the first half. The Wildcats needed it as Scottie Reynolds was held scoreless in the first half.
- For one of the first times this season, there were many questions from Wildcat fans about Jay Wright’s rotation. Corey Fisher was subbed from the game almost immediately, and didn’t return for about 10 minutes. Reynolds also sat for five minutes in the first half, and the two played together for just a few minutes in the first half. In the second half both players found themselves on the bench for long stretches yet again. Meanwhile, Reggie Redding led the team in minutes.
- While there was a bad call here and there, the fouling generally went in Villanova’s favor for what seemed like the first time in a month. Cincinnati committed two more fouls (24-22) and sent the Wildcats to the line 14 more times (35-21). It was only the second time in the Big East that the Wildcats had a +10 differential at the line.
- The Wildcats used a 12-1 run to open up the second half and seize control of the game.
- Villanova fans were feeling good about their team when it led 66-51 with 6:08 remaining, but a 14-0 run by Cincinnati over the next 3:26 made it a game again. Much of that run came with Reynolds on the bench, highlighting the strange rotation that Villanova had for most of the game. Reynolds, who has been well-rested all season, played 29 minutes.
- Reynolds once again had a strong second half, scoring all of his 17 points there. He took just one shot in the first half, and finished 3-for-6 in the game.
- The Wildcats almost gave the game away with turnovers by Stokes and Maalik Wayns in the final minute, but the Bearcats were unable to work their way back.
- Cincinnati took 22 more shots than Villanova (66-44) and made just 7 of 30 3-point attempts.
- Yarou once again started and looked strong. He finished with 10 points and seems to have carved out a role in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season.
- Pena fouled out for the eighth time this season, while Taylor King did the same for his fifth time.
- The Wildcats basically went eight deep tonight as Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood played a combined six minutes.
– David Cassilo
After receiving a citation from authorities for public urination early Thursday morning, it was unclear whether Jay Wright would elect to start Corey Stokes against Syracuse. Lineups show that Mouphtaou Yarou will start over Stokes.
– David Cassilo
It is somewhat rare that a highly anticipated game lives up to its hype. To find an example, all you have to do is go back to earlier this month when Kansas played Texas. Before the season started, this was the game everyone circled. It was supposed to be a battle between top-five teams, both of whom would possibly be undefeated at the time. Instead, Texas was a reeling squad entering the game, and Kansas rolled to victory.
Saturday night’s game is different. It is the game that live up to the hype. It is Vilanova and Syracuse. It is the Big East’s top two teams with first place on the line. It is 34,616 screaming fans at the Carrier Dome. It is the biggest game of the regular season in college basketball.
There is little time let for anticipation because the game is just hours away. Here are the questions that will determine who wins the game:
1) How will Villanova attack Syracuse zone’s defense?
Rather than answer it myself, I’ll let Scottie Reynolds do it. Here’s what he had to say on Friday:
“They like to get in passing lanes so you always have to look to score first. The passes will open. If you are looking to pass first, you will have a lot of turnovers. You just have to attack the zone. Don’t look for passes. Look for your shot first and hopefully everything will open up.”
It will need to rotate quickly, and try to trap him any chance it gets. Reynolds has shown all season that he can hit the open shot if it is given to him. Against a zone defense, Reynolds will have his opportunities to score from beyond the arc. Syracuse must know where Reynolds is at all times because he is the only Wildcat that has consistently connected from long range this season.
3) How does Villanova stop Wesley Johnson?
Villanova’s defensive stopper this season has been Reggie Redding. He shut down Dominique Jones on Wednesday and did the same to Da’Sean Butler earlier in the season. Redding will likely be matched up with Johnson, but Villanova switches often on defense. It needs to make sure that Johnson does not see many smaller defenders or he will be able to shoot over them.
4) What challenges does Syracuse’s frontcourt present?
On Friday, Jay Wright said that Syracuse’s frontcourt was the best he has seen all season. The Orange keep Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku on the block and allow them to do their work to get open and offensive rebound. The Wildcats will need to deny entry into the post, while also being focused on limiting offensive rebounds, something that led to their demise against Pittsburgh. With Mouphtaou Yarou coming off a strong performance on Wednesday, look for him to be given a chance to neutralize the Orange’s bigmen.
5) Will the large crowd have any affect on Villanova’s younger players?
The Wildcats have been lucky enough to already play at West Virginia and Pittsburgh before Saturday’s game, but the Carrier Dome is a different animal. It will be large, loud and unlike anything the younger players have ever seen. While the Carrier Dome is a unique environment, Villanova has played well there, winning its last two trips to the building. Villanova will come ready to play, and while it may take the younger players a few minutes to soak in the environment, eventually it will just become a basketball game. Today, Corey Stokes summed up the team’s take on the atmosphere:
“We’re basketball players. We love playing in front of the big crowds when the lights are on. Everybody lives for that.”
Basketball fans live for it too. Saturday night is almost here.