‘Cats a Round 2 knockout



Nate McGann

As the end of the regular season approached, it became relatively obvious that the Wildcats were running on empty.  Saturday afternoon against No. 10-seeded St. Mary’s, they finally ran out of gas.

The Gaels, one of this year’s Cinderellas, brought down the deflated ‘Cats 75-68 on the shoulders of senior big man Omar Samhan and a decisive banked 3-pointer from junior guard Mickey McConnell, sending Villanova home and senior guard Scottie Reynolds back to the locker room for the last time as a Wildcat. 

The loss capped off an ugly slide late in the season for a team that was once ranked No. 2 in the nation. Villanova went 5-7 down the stretch.

“It was a challenge all year,” Head Coach Jay Wright said after the game. “Our journey was not an easy one. It was a tough one.  But [our team] really stuck together until the bitter end. [The Gaels] played really well.” 

One look at Reynolds slumped in the corner of his locker, staring at the floor, and it was clear the team left everything on the court. The problem was that the performance they left on the floor was one of the worst of the season, especially from Reynolds who shot a putrid two of 11. 

In his three postseason games, including the Big East tournament, Reynolds made only eight shots in 36 attempts and fell 22 points short of becoming Villanova’s all-time leading scorer. 

“That’s basketball,” Reynolds said. “Everybody knows my effort was there. The ball just didn’t go in the basket. It’s definitely disappointing.” 

“I thought we got great shots off ball screens for Scottie,” Wright said. “A lot of those he hits. And he didn’t hit them.”

As a team, Villanova shot 36.2 percent, its second worst shooting performance since its game against George Mason in November. While the Wildcats had 20 more shots than the Gaels, not enough found the bottom of the net. 

Junior Corey Stokes led all Villanova scorers with 15 points and freshman Maalik Wayns played a good game with 10. 

Despite the shooting woes, the Wildcats managed to erase a 10-point second half deficit on a layup by junior guard Corey Fisher and then a foul on a made basket by sophomore forward Taylor King. The score was tied at 65 with 1:17 left in regulation. 

That’s when McConnell made the shot no ‘Nova fan will forget. With the clock winding down, McConnell launched a 23-foot prayer that banked off the backboard and in. St. Mary’s never looked back.  

“The play of the game was that banked 3,” Wright said. 

The play of the game may have been a miracle shot, but the story was a disappointing end to a spectacular career. 

Reynolds was the bridge from Ray-Foye-Sumpter to Cheek-Wayns-Yarou-Armwood. Reynolds sent Villanova to its first Final Four since winning the title in 1985. Reynolds may go down as the greatest to wear a Villanova jersey. But as the leader of a talented team with Final Four aspirations, Reynolds couldn’t get the ‘Cats out of the first weekend of his final tournament. And Reynolds is done at Villanova.

“There’s no shame in losing,” Reynolds said. “It’s disappointing that we didn’t get this team to where we wanted to.”

It took only minutes before the moment set in, and Reynolds realized his run here was over. 

“I always play with no fear,” he said with tears swelling in his eyes. “I think I showed that. I try to will this team. It hurts when you can’t do that in your last game. I just wanted to be in the same category as [those that played before me]. Hopefully, I did that.”

The team never found the rhythm that was characteristic of last year’s squad who played well together, and it showed, despite a great effort from Reynolds over the course of the season. 

“I tried to be the best Scottie Reynolds I could be,” he said. “I tried to be the best Scottie Reynolds for my teammates. We had some great times this year. We just came up against a great opponent. We’re going to hold our heads up high.”