‘Nova tops Pitt on last-second shot to reach Final Four



David Cassilo

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 game.

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 came with 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 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.