Wildcats upset Clemson Tigers in first round of NCAA tournament



Tim Richer

var uslide_show_id = “4f85c3b8-9809-4bdf-ac62-4a58e186655b”;var slideshowwidth = “468”;var linktext = “Click here to open our photo slideshow from Friday night’s game.”;

TAMPA, FLA. – “Upset City” continued on Friday night as No. 12-seed Villanova completed the fourth upset of the day on the floor of St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. with a 75-69 comeback victory over the No. 5-seed Clemson Tigers.

The Wildcats, who trailed by as many as 18 in the first half, were led by guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher who contributed 21 and 17 points, respectively.

“These two little guards [Reynolds and Fisher] play with so much heart, and they really grew up tonight,” Head Coach Jay Wright said.

Earlier in the day, the Tampa crowd witnessed three upsets: No. 12-seed Western Kentucky over No. 5-seed Drake, No. 13-seed San Diego over Connecticut and No. 13-seed Siena over Vanderbilt. It was the first time in NCAA tournament history that more than two upsets had taken place on the same court. Hoping not to see a repeat of the days previous events, Clemson jumped out to a fast start fueled by 7-for-17 shooting from three in the first half. On the offensive end, ‘Nova had a difficult time handling Clemson’s constant full-court press and committed 10 turnovers in the first period. At one point the Tigers went up 36-18, the widest margin of the game. The Tigers entered the half with a 12-point lead, but ‘Nova started the second period strong by scoring five quick points off of a layup from forward Shane Clark and a three-pointer from Reynolds. Clark, along with forward Antonio Pena, led the Wildcats with six rebounds on the game. Villanova took its first lead with 11:56 left in the contest when Clemson guard Cliff Hammonds fouled Reynolds on a wild three point attempt that banked off the glass and to put the Wildcats in front 50-49. Reynolds missed the foul shot, but the momentum was on the ‘Cats side. They retained the lead for the remainder of the game.

“When we got the lead back, Scottie was yelling in the huddle, ‘Now we’re going to finish this,'” Wright said. “We didn’t do it last time [against Georgetown in the Big East tournament], but we’re going to finish this one.”

The Wildcats opened up the game after a three-point play from Pena that put ‘Nova ahead by eight with just over six minutes to go. Forward James Mays and center Trevor Booker then fouled out for the Tigers and it appeared as if the ‘Cats were safely in control.

Refusing to go down without a fight, Clemson clawed back to within two after a technical from Coach Wright with three minutes to go. However, that was as close as Clemson would get over the remainder of the game as the Wildcats were able to convert crucial foul shots in the games final minutes.

Clemson struggled on both ends of the court in the second half and had difficulty putting points on the board, shooting just 25 percent from the floor, including 2-for-16 from downtown. The Tigers ended the game having allowed 50 percent shooting on 22-of-44 field goals from the Wildcats to compound their shooting woes. Guard K.C. Rivers led the Tigers with 15 points.

With the win, Villanova notched its first NCAA tournament victory since 2006 when the Wildcats defeated Boston College in Minneapolis, Minn. during the Sweet 16 round. ‘Nova now sets its sights on the No. 13 Siena Saints from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Saints handed No. 4 Vanderbilt an 83-62 loss in Tampa just minutes before the Wildcats and Tigers took the court. Tip off is set for a 12:10 p.m. tomorrow.

var uslide_show_id = “4f85c3b8-9809-4bdf-ac62-4a58e186655b”;var slideshowwidth = “468”;var linktext = “Click here to open our photo slideshow from Friday night’s game.”;