Here’s part five of five of our week long series of looking back at Villanova’s top 10 moments of the past year:
2. Dwayne Anderson beats buzzer and Marquette with layup- Mar. 12, 2009
Much like the NCAA tournament, Villanova received a serious scare in the first round of the Big East tournament. After building a 16-point halftime lead, it appeared as though the Wildcats would cruise to an easy win, but Marquette battled back and took a one-point lead with 1:36 remaining.
The Wildcats and Golden Eagles exchanged empty possessions, and then Villanova had one final chance. Reggie Redding dribbled the ball at the top of the key and found Anderson slashing along the baseline. Anderson laid the ball up against the glass as the buzzer expired. The ball danced along the rim until it finally fell into the net for a 76-75 Villanova victory.
1. Scottie Reynolds’ dash for Detroit- Mar. 28, 2009
Hands down, this was one of the best games in tournament history. Two Big East powers battled in Boston for a chance to the Final Four and what ensued was a classic.
The second half was back-and-forth the entire way, but never did that lead extend too far in either team’s direction. When things looked bleak, Anderson played the second half of his life and made every play necessary. When it looked like Villanova had the game, Reggie Redding threw the ball away and allowed Pittsburgh to tie it.
In the end it was Reynolds who came through. Redding got the inbounds in this time, and after Dante Cunningham caught it, he passed it to Reynolds, who dashed down the court before laying it up over Gilbert Brown. The basket meant a Villanova victory and trip to its first Final Four since 1985.
Here’s part four of five of our week long series of looking back at Villanova’s top 10 moments of the past year:
4. Dante Cunningham is drafted 33rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers- June 25, 2009
Anyone who claims to have seen this coming before the season was a liar. Cunningham had carved out a nice college career through his first three seasons but did not seem like a serious NBA prospect. Then came his senior season and things changed. Cunningham developed a lethal jump shot that caused a jump in scoring average, earning him the Big East’s Most Improved Player and making him the best player on Villanova’s Final Four team.
So far, Cunningham has seen several minutes per game as a bench player for Portland and is averaging 3.4 ppg and 2.4 rpg.
3. Villanova destroys basketball powers UCLA and Duke- Mar. 21 and Mar. 26, 2009
Part of the reason that made 2009 special for Villanova was who they played in the NCAA tournament. After defeating American, the Wildcats had the chance to take on the storied program of UCLA. While UCLA may have had the history, Villanova had the victory as they tore apart the Bruins in front of a raucous Philadelphia crowd, winning 89-69. Both Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson had double-doubles for Villanova, and overall six Wildcats scored in double-figures.
Next up was a trip to the Sweet 16 where Duke was awaiting. After an evenly played first half, Villanova trounced the Blue Devils by outscoring them 51-31 in the game’s final minutes to win 77-54. Cunningham had another double-double while Scottie Reynolds led all scorers with 16 points. The Blue Devils shot just 26.7 percent from the field.
The two wins set up an Elite Eight matchup between Villanova and Pittsburgh.
Here’s part three of five of our week long series of looking back at Villanova’s top 10 moments of the past year:
6. Class of 2009 becomes winningest class in Villanova history- Mar. 2, 2009
By no means was Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark and Frank Tchuisi the most heralded class in school history, but they were the class with more wins than any other in the school’s history. A convincing win over Notre Dame gave the group that distinction.
The four Wildcats finished their careers with 102 wins and capped their four years with a trip to the Final Four. In many ways they exemplified exactly what Villanova basketball has become under Jay Wright – doing whatever is needed to win.
5. Villanova survives American in the first round- Mar. 19, 2009
The magical run that was the 2009 NCAA tournament almost was over for Villanova just when it started. It looked like the upset bug might bite the Wildcats as a scrappy American team led by Garrison Carr took a 10-point lead into halftime.
Villanova, though, turned things around in the second half and used a 15-0 run in the second half to take control and avoid the upset in front of the hometown Philadelphia crowd. Both Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson sparked the comeback for Villanova as each had 25 points, which was also a career-high for Anderson.
The Wildcats prevailed 80-67, and that second half was the beginning of a run that would end in the Final Four.
Here’s part two of five of our week long series of looking back at Villanova’s top 10 moments of the past year:
8. Scottie Reynolds sinks Marquette with game-winner- Jan. 2, 2010
During his senior season, Scottie Reynolds has taken his game to another level and has been possibly the best player in the Big East. That ascension into elite status took liftoff in Villanova’s first conference game, against Marquette.
With Villanova trailing 72-71, Reynolds hit arguably his second most memorable shot of his Villanova career (we all know his first). He took the ball at the top of the key, avoided two defenders by bringing the ball behind his back and dribbling it through his own legs and then rose at the foul line to sink a jumper while getting fouled. Although, he missed the foul shot, Marquette failed to ever take the lead back and fell 74-72.
7. A trio of Wildcats win Big East awards- Mar. 9-10, 2009
A memorable March for the Wildcats kicked off with three Big East honors. Guard Corey Fisher picked up the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Fisher averaged 10.8 points per game, which was second among all bench players in the Big East. He also managed to score in double figures in 11 of the 15 games he came off the bench.
Teammate Dante Cunningham took home the conference’s Most Improved Player award. Cunningham improved his scoring average from 10.4 ppg his junior season to 16.4 ppg his senior season. He also raised his rebounding average from 6.5 rebounds per game to 7.3 rpg. Cunningham looked like a completely different player his senior season, as he developed a lethal jump shot in the offseason.
The final award went to Head Coach Jay Wright, who picked up his second Big East Coach of the Year award. The Wildcats finished one spot ahead of their preseason conference prediction of fifth and finished the regular season ranked No. 10 in the AP poll.
Just talked to Dante Cunningham in the Blazers locker room before tonight’s game. He had so many ticket requests in his return to Philadelphia that he had to shut his phone off.
Distractions aside, it is a admittedly big week for Cunningham, first returning to Washington, D.C. (not far from his hometown) and now being back in Philadelphia. He remains the same old Cunningham, looking extremely focused and talking about always trying to improve.
Big feature on Cunningham in next week’s Villanovan (Jan. 28), so look out for it.
Dante Cunningham officially became a member of the Blazers roster today as he signed a multi-year contract with the team. Terms of the deal were not announced.
“I am so grateful and happy to be a Trail Blazer,” said Cunningham. “This is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get to work with my teammates. I’m looking forward to moving to Portland and helping this team in any way that I can.”
Being a second round pick, Cunningham’s contract was not guaranteed, but an impressive summer league performance persuaded the Blazers to sign him.
“We are really excited about the versatility and determination Dante brings to our team,” said general manager Kevin Pritchard. “Dante had a great summer league and we believe he has the potential to become a very good player in this league.”
His addition gives the Blazers 12 players. It was also announced that he will wear #33.
The NBA schedule came out today, and Dante Cunningham and the Portland Trailblazers will be making their only trip to Philadelphia on Jan. 20, 2010. It is a Wednesday night, and the game starts at 7 p.m.