Elite Eight game will never be forgotten by ‘Cats

Patrick Mullaney

“They got plenty of room, or time I should say, at least four seconds to get up the floor, there’s Reynolds.” After Verne Lundquist said that, he waited to see what would happen next, because he didn’t know.

Nobody could have known that just a second later Reynolds would graciously maneuver himself into the lane and then bulldoze his way into one of the NCAA’s biggest bodies in DeJuan Blair and put up a shot that found its way through the basket.

With that basket, the Wildcats went up 78-76 and secured a victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers, giving the Villanova community even more to celebrate about.

The final basket gave Villanova fans a chance to say something they hadn’t been able to say for the past 24 years:  The Wildcats are in the Final Four.  However, it did not come without as much drama and tension as any game could possibly have.

That whole week, the whole campus felt a new kind of electricity running through it. The Villanova Wildcats had made the 2009 Final Four. That night, even Lancaster Avenue shut down.

“It was just a massive, happy, chaotic mess,” said sophomore Bridget Gallagher.

In what was in all likelihood the greatest game of March Madness, and possibly the year, the game saw 10 ties and 15 lead changes.

Down 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 was then fouled and sank 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.

“There’s so many emotions going through my head,” Reynolds said, still cradling the game ball in the news conference. “It’s something you think about as a youngster, advancing to the Final Four and winning the championship.”

Even the people who weren’t playing on the floor with them felt like they had a part in the victory. All of the Villanova fans who knew they were good enough to get this far, this game was for them.

“This game reflected to everyone else what ‘Nova Nation had believed in the whole season,” said senior Steph Novelli. “Every student and Villanovan, past or present, was out on the floor that night with the boys, against the naysayers and the doubts and proved them all wrong.”

No one could have been more proud of the team than their very own head coach Jay Wright.

“I’m so proud for our guys and Villanova,” said Head Coach Jay Wright.  “This is a great tradition we are a part of.”