Clutch performance gives Reynolds place in ‘Nova history



David Cassilo

It may have been referred to as just a layup in the postgame press conference, but Scottie Reynolds’ shot over Gilbert Brown to beat Pittsburgh and advance to the Final Four was far from an ordinary basket. The shot was the peak of an up-and-down season for Reynolds and the birth of a legend that will live forever.

“I’ve hit shots to make us win before, but not with so much on the line,” Reynolds said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling – something you think about as a youngster.”

Dreams of moments like this were born the minute Reynolds decided to go to Villanova. Originally headed to Oklahoma to begin his college career, Reynolds changed his mind after Head Coach Kelvin Sampson left the school to take the head coaching position at Indiana.

With an extra scholarship available because of the early departure of Kyle Lowry, Villanova quickly went after Reynolds and tried to bring the McDonald’s All-American to the Pavilion. Knowing the success that guards have at Villanova, Reynolds chose the school as his new home.

With Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Lowry all leaving for the NBA, Reynolds was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. It proved to be the right decision as he defied all expectations, finishing second on the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game and winning the Big East Rookie of the Year.

“Freshman year is probably the easiest year to score or be a contributor because nobody really knows you. Nobody really respects you,” Reynolds said. “You have to earn your respect in the league.”

It was obvious that the rest of the Big East was starting to give him that respect, as he was only able to raise his scoring average to 15.9 points per game in his sophomore season. Still, Reynolds was the most dangerous threat on the Wildcats and led the team to the Sweet 16.

His junior season, though, has perhaps given Reynolds more adversity than any season in his career. For the first time at Villanova, the crowd began to turn on its point guard.

The cheers became jeers for Reynolds in a loss to Georgetown in which he committed six turnovers. There was even more criticism in the team’s loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament when he scored only two points.

Reynolds, however, knew that the dip in his scoring average (down to 15.2) was more a result of increased production from the rest of the team, rather than a failure on his part to make plays.

“Every team is different,” Reynolds said. “[My freshman year] team needed me to go in there and score the basketball a lot. This team, we have so many people with experience and who know how to score. That is what makes us dangerous.”

As Reynolds alluded to, this year’s team is the most successful one he has ever been a part of at Villanova. The maturation of senior forwards Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham, as well as the bench production from sophomore guards Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, has meant that Reynolds no longer needs to dominate offensively for the team to win.

That being said, when the game is on the line, Reynolds is still the player the team looks to. Saturday night was a perfect example.

After a failed inbounds pass by junior guard Reggie Redding, Pittsburgh was able to tie the game on two Levance Fields free throws with five seconds remaining.

Between the first and second free throw Head Coach Jay Wright called a timeout and said the name of play they would run assuming, Fields made the shot.

“We have a name for it,” Wright said. “All we had to say in the huddle was we’re running it. We practice that all the time. We do it for that reason. He’s done that in games a lot. I really had great confidence in him.”

The now famous final play started with Redding throwing the ball in to Cunningham at the 3-point arc. Cunningham then threw it to Reynolds who did the rest.

“Once I saw that they left me open it was either up the court to Dwayne and Shane or Scottie flying down the court,” Cunningham said. “Scottie was just open. He’s a jet. It’s kind of hard to catch him.”

After catching the ball, Reynolds flew by half court, crossed in front of sophomore forward DaJuan Blair at the foul line and found himself eye-to-eye with Brown, who was in perfect position to take a charge.

Reynolds made sure not to run him over, and when he reached Brown he went straight up for the shot. Despite some contact from Brown, he was able to release the ball over Brown’s hands. The ball fell through the hoop giving him the game-winning shot and giving the school its first appearance in the Final Four since 1985.

It will be a shot that Reynolds will see the rest of his life, but strangely enough, he never saw the original.

“When we made the shot, or I thought I made it, everybody just rushed the court. I didn’t even see the ball go in actually,” Reynolds said.

Whether he saw it or not, it is clear that the basket is more than just a layup. It means the jeers will be silent forever. It means that Reynolds will always hold a place in Villanova and NCAA tournament history. Perhaps greatest of all, it means that the story of Scottie Reynolds has evolved into a legend.