Just when we thought the big five was dead, the Villanova Wildcats step up with a huge 67-65 victory in a well-played, hard fought contest against Big East foe, the #13 Connecticut Huskies. The win makes it 3 in a row for Jay Wright’s club and ended Uconn’s 10-game winning streak.Villanova was lead by Corey Stokes hot outside shooting in the first half, leading 33-27 at the break. Stokes finished with 18 points in the game. The second half was all Scottie Reynolds who scored 15 of his 18 points after the break.The Wildcats were able to overcome a big size disadvantage and 38-22 rebounding disparity in similar fashion as they have all year – with quickness. Nova forced 13 turnovers including 9 steals that lead to many easy buckets. Add the 9-20 three-point shooting and that is a winning combination for the Wildcats.Key plays in the last minute:
- With 39-seconds and a two-point lead Scottie Reynolds coming off pick from Dante Cunningham drives to the basket with 7′ 3 Hasheem Thabeet on his hip and puts up a right hand floater high of the glass, ala Allen Iverson to give Nova a 4-point lead.
- A.J. Price had a chance to tie the game with 6.9-seconds but missed the first of two free throws.
- Dante Cunningham at the line with 4.9-seconds to go, missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Antonio Pena tipped the miss back to Cunningham, secured the most important rebound of the afternoon. He was fouled again with 2.3 seconds remaining and Cunningham hit the first free throw and missed the second. Leading 67-65 the desperation heave from half-court proved fruitless for Uconn.
In my opinion this was the first of three straight must win games for Nova to be considered for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. With a mediocre overall record (17-9) and .500 in the Big East conference (7-7) it’s clear the Wildcats need to rack up some quality wins down the stretch to build their resume for the selection committee. Up next, they face #24 Marquette at home then go to #23 Louisville next Sunday. Those are the two tough games left on the schedule that Villanova really needs to win. They finish up the regular season with South Florida and at Providence.If they can win out their resume looks like this going into the Big East Tourney:
- 21-9, (11-7 in the Big East)
- 8-4 in their last 12 games (last 12 is the new measure since seasons are longer)
- Quality wins: Marquette, Louisville, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, George Mason
- Bad loses: Rutgers, DePaul
I think that is good enough to make them at the very least one of the last 4 in. Throw in a few wins in the conference tournament and they are a lock for the big dance. For now, Jay Wright needs to have them fully focused on Marquette.