Sunday’s lost to Pittsburgh was the most agonizing defeat of the season for Wildcat fans. Every time Villanova had a chance to tie or take the lead, it seemed like Pittsburgh caught a break. Here’s a look at everything worth mentioning in Sunday’s loss:
- There were plenty of excruciating moments in the loss, but no sequence proved more critical than with Villanova trailing by two and Scottie Reynolds on a fast break, Taylor King picking up an offensive foul. After a Gilbert Brown free throw, King then air-balled a 3-point attempt for the tie. Those were Villanova’s best two chances in the second half.
- The Wildcats got within one score seven times in the second half but never tied or took the lead.
- The officiating was a killer for the Wildcats. With Corey Fisher picking up two fouls in just over a minute, and Reynolds picking up his second just a few minutes later, Villanova was forced to play a lineup with not many scoring threats for the majority of the first half. It was lucky to trail just 29-23.
- Being at the Zoo, the officiating as a whole was very inconsistent. While I would have rewatch the game to pick out every instance, three stick out particularly. 1) The crowd thought Reynolds should have been given an offensive foul, got loud and just a few seconds later Reynolds was given an offensive foul for a push-off that was legal. 2) Taylor King was falling down already when they called a charge on a Pitt player in the second half. 3) After a Villanova player was mugged, Antonio Pena got called for a foul and did not touch anyone. I believe this was the play before Wright’s technical. From a Villanova writer, this might sound biased, but I don’t recall a game in the Big East this year when I actually felt that the other team had more of a gripe with the officials than Villanova.
- Speaking of fouls Fisher needs to show better judgment early in games. His second foul was a blocking call on a fast break. Rather than force the referees to make a tough call and risk being forced to the bench with two fouls, it might be better show some restraint and allow an early basket.
- It was an up-and-down day for King. I mentioned his bad sequence of events earlier, but he did seem to regain his shooting stroke, connecting on a long 3-point attempt on his way to finishing with 5 points.
- Reynolds was shut down early due to fouls and the defense of Jermaine Dixon, but he still managed to finish with 20 points.
- Once again, the other three starters were almost non-existent offensively. Pena, Corey Stokes and Reggie Redding finished with a combined 23 points.
- The bench has also disappeared recently for Villanova. It was outscored 24-10, a statistic that was unfathomable about a month ago.
- The defense was improved for the Wildcats, as they held Pitt to just 35.1 percent from the field. The reasons they lost? 1) Differential at the foul line as Pitt shot 26-for-34 while Villanova was 11-for-16. 2) Offensive rebounding, where Pittsburgh held an 18-10 advantage. Credit Gary McGhee for grabbing 8 of those offensive rebounds.
- Pittsburgh did a phenomenal job of controlling tempo. They made sure to use almost the entire shot clock on most possessions. When it gathered an offensive rebound, it wound the clock down again. Jaime Dixon also used his timeouts perfectly, slowing down the game and making sure Villanova did not begin to speed up the tempo at any time.
– David Cassilo
We are live from the Petersen Events Center today for Villanova’s game against Pittsburgh. Stay tuned to the blog and Twitter for updates.
It should be a raucous environment. As Scottie Reynolds said on Friday about the venue, “The Zoo is just the zoo. They call it that for a reason. I remember my sophomore year going out there, and it was crazy. You don’t expect anything less than that this year.”
– David Cassilo
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 are all the articles related to Villanova basketball from today’s issue:
In what may go down as the greatest season in Big East history, Villanova and Pittsburgh faced off in quite possibly the best game ever played between two teams in the conference. In a game that saw 10 ties and 15 lead changes, Villanova finally prevailed on a Scottie Reynolds layup with .5 seconds remaining in the gam
The final basket gave Villanova fans a chance to say something for the first time in 24 years: The Wildcats are in the Final Four. However, it did not come without as much drama and tension as any game could possible have.
After two free throws by senior guard Levance Fields with 2:01 remaining, Pittsburgh grabbed a 68-67 lead. Villanova took back the lead on its next possession when senior forward Dwayne Anderson hit a 3-point shot.
After a Pittsburgh turnover by sophomore forward DeJuan Blair, the Panthers fouled sophomore guard Corey Fisher with 46 seconds remaining. Fisher calmly sunk both free throws to extend the Villanova lead to four.
The Panthers quickly responded with a 3-point shot by senior forward Sam Young to narrow the score to one but two more free throws by Fisher made the score 75-72.
Following a missed 3-point shot by Fields, sophomore guard Reggie Redding hit one of two free throws to give Villanova the four-point lead. The one miss was the only one of the game for the Wildcats.
With 20 seconds left, it would seemingly take a miracle for the Panthers to overcome the deficit.
Blair connected on an easy layup on Pittsburgh’s next possession, and what came next was exactly the miracle Pittsburgh needed. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Redding threw it the length of the court, and senior forward Dante Cunningham was unable to corral the ball before Pittsburgh recovered the loose ball. Fields then was fouled and sunk two more free throws to tie the game.
What came next was a play that will live on in both Villanova and NCAA tournament history.
Given a second chance, Redding successfully inbounded the ball to Cunningham at the free throw line. Cunningham passed it to Reynolds who weaved in between defenders and into the lane. Despite a lot of contact, Reynolds managed to get a shot off over the Pittsburgh defender. The ball left his hand and fell through the net with .5 seconds left.
“It’s something that we do everyday in practice,” Reynolds said. “Either I was going to get fouled or I was going to hit the shot or we are going to overtime. I’m just thankful it went in.”
Pittsburgh relied on Fields to take a desperation heave as time expired, but the shot was off the mark. Villanova had escaped and was now on its way to Detroit.
“I’m so proud for our guys and Villanova,” said Head Coach Jay Wright. “This is a great tradition we are a part of.”
Following the game Anderson, Cunningham and Reynolds were all named to All-Tournament Team for the East Region. Reynolds was also named the most outstanding player of the region. He finished the game against Pittsburgh with 15 points after scoring 16 against Duke in the previous round.
Anderson led all Villanova scorers against Pittsburgh with 17 points. Senior forward Shane Clark and Cunningham were also both in double-figures in scoring with 11 points and 14 points, respectively.
Aside from reaching its fourth Final Four in school history, Villanova achieved several other milestones in the contest. The win was the 300th for Wright and 30th of the season, the latter of which has never been reached before at Villanova.
The Wildcats will play their next game on Saturday in Detroit. The team will play the winner of tomorrow’s North Carolina-Oklahoma game.
When Villanova knocked off Pittsburgh on Jan. 28, Head Coach Jay Wright said that he hoped he would never have to see the Panthers again. Although the Wildcats avoided them in the Big East tournament, when the NCAA tournament bracket came out on Selection Sunday, the two teams found themselves in the same region, which to some experts meant that a rematch was inevitable. Now that the rematch is here, let’s take a look at Pittsburgh, a team that has changed a lot since the first time these two teams met.
Strengths: For most of the season, Pittsburgh was considered the best team in the Big East, and by some the best team in the country. The reason for that was its experience and physical play. Led by senior guard Levance Fields and senior forward Sam Young, the Panthers have been through every battle possible in their four years with the team. However, what puts the team over the edge is the play of sophomore forwards DeJuan Blair. He is the most physical player in the country, and gives the Pittsburgh a decisive rebounding advantage coming into every game. Together Young, Fields and Blair, make up possibly the best offensive threesome in the nation.
Weaknesses: In its last four games, Pittsburgh’s supporting players have been the reason the team has looked so vulnerable. In its Big East tournament game and three NCAA tournament games, only one player (freshman guard Ashton Gibbs) has had 10 points in a game besides Young, Fields and Blair. The lack of production from the team’s role players is something that needs to be corrected if Pittsburgh is going to advance to the Final Four.
The Panthers also lack a consistent shooter from beyond the 3-point arc and that weakness is showing up in March. In its last four games, Pittsburgh is shooting 31.4 percent from 3-point range, which is below its season average of 35.4 percent.
Who to Watch: Talk to anyone across the country, and the first player they name on Pittsburgh is Blair. However, ask anyone on Villanova, and the player they are most concerned with is Fields. As he showed against Xavier, Fields has a knack for making the big play late, even when he is struggling for the majority of the game. What makes Fields most dangerous is his ability to beat teams without scoring. He has an uncanny ability to make the right play, as shown by his Big East best 3.7/1 assist to turnover ratio. By stopping the motor of the Panther’s offense, Villanova will greatly improve its chances to win the game.
What to expect: So far this tournament, Villanova is playing like the No. 1-seed rather than Pittsburgh. Villanova has been able to demolish its opponents while Pittsburgh has squeaked by with narrow victories against inferior opponents. Nevertheless, this is not the type of game Villanova will be able to run away with like its last two. This will be a classic, physical Big East battle that will most likely come down to the final minute. In such a physical game, fouls will be prevalent, so look for the team who can avoid fouls to its best players as the one that advances to Detroit.