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.
Today it all begins. We are live from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence for today’s action. Here’s some links from The Villanovan to get you started:
It’s doubtful that many Villanova fans know too much about Robert Morris, so let’s see who exactly this team is.
1) Who are they?
Robert Morris is located in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Colonials play in the Northeast Conference and have won back-to-back league titles. Their head coach is Mike Rice, who in three seasons at Robert Morris has a record of 73-30 and two NCAA tournament appearances. Prior to coming to Robert Morris, he was an assistant to Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh.
The Colonials starting lineup consists of senior forwards Dallas Green and Rob Robinson, senior guard Meze Nwigwe and freshmen guards Karon Abraham and Velton Jones.
2) How did they get here?
The Colonials went 23-11 this season and tied for first in their conference with a 15-3 record. They knocked off top-seed Quinnipiac 52-50 in the conference final to earn the automatic bid. Against NCAA tournament teams, Robert Morris lost to Syracuse and Pittsburgh and beat Ohio and Morgan State.
3) Who to watch
The Colonials best player is freshman guard Karon Abraham, the freshman of the year in the Northeast Conference. The Paterson, N.J. native averaged 13.8 points per game during his first season, making him the only Colonial to average double-figures in scoring. Abraham improved as the season went on, scoring double-figures in his last seven games.
4) What to expect
There shouldn’t be any first round scare for the Wildcats like they had last season with American. While Robert Morris has tournament experience going for it, its lack of scoring will be a problem. The Colonials averaged just 68.5 points per game, nearly as much as the 65.7 points per game they allowed. Also, without a player on their roster taller than 6’8″, the Colonials will fail to take advantage of an undersized Villanova team. Look for the Wildcats to get an easy win they desperately need.
Villanova will be the first game of the day session. The Richmond-St. Mary’s game will follow approximately 20 minutes after.
This season Robert Morris finished 23-11 and finished second in the Northeast Conference. It upset Quinnipiac 52-50 in the conference title game. The Colonials have won nine of their last 11 games. A season ago, they lost 77-62 to Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Great draw. A lot more to come on this. Stay tuned.