NCAA

Villanova's 2009 Final Four team reunites for big TBT win

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Joe Bloss

Villanova's 2009 Final Four team reunites for big TBT win

Before there was Kris Jenkins, Scottie Reynolds was the one who hit “the shot.” His last-second heroics in 2009 propelled ‘Nova to its first Final Four since winning it all in 1985. He was the beloved Villanova Wildcat and still is the second-leading scorer in program history. So it makes sense a Supernova team with Reynolds and four other guys from that Final Four squad would be the second seed in The Basketball Tournament's Northeast region, who went on to beat 15-seeded South Jamaica Kings, 97-72.

But seedings didn't scare the Kings one bit Saturday during the TBT first round at Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Center.

“Shock the world,” guard Cameron Tyler said on the bench during a timeout.

For most of the first half, it looked like the shock was possible. The game was tied at 24 with four minutes left in the first of two 18-minute halves. The offense was not there for SuperNova. Some early threes fell, but 40 points at the break didn’t equate to the well-oiled machine a Jay Wright-run offense usually shows.

Reggie Redding, a starting guard on that 2009 Final Four team who played last season in Munich, knew what the problem was. And it’s just what you’d guess.

“Man, how many years?” he said. “How many years since we've played together? Guys not in the best shape, you know.”

Redding said that some of the team practiced in Villanova’s practice facility against current players Thursday. Clearly, they needed a bit more time to get back to their old ways.

But once the rust came off, it was Villanova basketball at its finest. South Jamaica Kings actually took the lead with just under four minutes left in the first half, 26-24. Then Supernova turned the corner. Reynolds knocked in a three. Then he did it again two possessions later. And in the final minute, he really looked like the guy who owned the Main Line a few years ago.

After a timeout, Reynolds got a dish while going full speed from the wing. But when he reached the basket, he tossed to the corner for an open three. It fell for the last basket of the half, executed to perfection just like that layup to beat Pitt and send the ‘Cats to Detroit. The mood had shifted.

“We gotta adjust, they going corners now,” one King said on his way off the court at the start of halftime. 

And in the second half, the story went from close call to not at all. Up 15 early, Reynolds again beat his man and went to the rim. Again he dished, this time to Redding in the corner. He didn’t convert, but Mo Sutton sure did. Sutton grabbed the ball above the rim and emphatically slammed it down in one motion. There was plenty of time left on the clock, but everyone in the gym knew it was probably over.

It was. Supernova continued to make it ugly. Everyone on the team scored. Reynolds had 15, Corey Fisher contributed 16, and Malcolm Grant, who played his freshman season at Villanova in 2007-2008 before transferring to Miami (Florida), led the way with 21 of the bench. Down the stretch, the interior passing between Jayvaughn Pinkston, Isaiah Armwood and Sutton looked like keep-away against a frustrated Kings bunch. In the game’s waning minutes, the effort was gone. Supernova was just looking to get to 100. The Kings were just looking to leave.

By the time the lead was comfortable, any stress of an early-round exit — which Villanova basketball is all too familiar with — had turned to joy. 

“When we get back together, it's like we never left each other,” Redding said. “Everybody don't keep in contact that much, but … It was fun, man, it's like we were back in the locker room.”

There were seven other games northeast region games Saturday, with plenty of Philly ties in a handful of the matchups. Here’s a brief recap of the rest of the action:

No. 8 Talladega Knights vs.  No. 9 Paul Champions
The contrast of Paul Champions is something else. Earl Boykins, one of the NBA’s shortest players ever at 5-foot-5, took command in a 78-74 win with 25 points and five assists. But then Paul Champions comes at you with a 7-foot-6 tower in Mamadou Ndiaye and fan favorite Chukwudiebere Maduabum, who’s 6-foot-10. They’ll be fun to watch moving forward.

No. 1 FCM Untouchables vs.  No. 16 OPI
The Untouchables are the No. 1 seed because of results like this one. OPI was down just six at half, but was held to just 39 percent from the field after the break. Coached by Kevin Durant’s brother Tony, the Untouchables are pretty much loaded with former NBA guys and European league studs. They won, 92-77.

No. 4 Team FOE vs. No. 13 DC On Point
The Philly connection runs deep on Team FOE. The Morris twins coach. Markus Kennedy, who played one season at Villanova before transferring to Southern Methodist, started down low, and Scott Rodgers of Drexel played up top. But if you needed any more notice that the squad was somewhat local, the crowd made that clear. In an 80-75 win that was really close down the stretch after a Team FOE comeback in the second half, the FOE fans went wild.

No. 5 Zoo Crew (Pittsburgh Alumni) vs. No. 12 Sideline Cancer
Often as it goes during March Madness, that 5-12 matchup wasn’t a breeze for the higher seed. Led by Levance Fields, the Zoo Crew kept it close against Sideline Cancer for all 36 minutes, but in the end, even Fields’ 35 points weren’t enough. Zoo Crew lacked the defense needed to advance. Five of Sideline Cancer’s seven players scored in double figures, and both Duane (not The Rock) Johnson and former St. Joseph’s guard Aaron Brown notched 25 points in a 100-87 win.

No. 6 City of Gods vs. No. 11 GaelNation
The two teams matched bucket for bucket for all 36 minutes. City of Gods, with Drexel’s Phil Goss and Temple’s David Hawkins, looked to be distancing themselves late until Javier Carter of GaelNation threw down maybe the meanest dunk of the day to that point. The Gaels tied it up a possession later, only to foul while in the bonus at the other end. But once City of Gods missed both with 8.7 seconds left, Steven Burtt got the rock and sprinted for a layup at the other end. He drained it and City of God’s advanced to the front court with a timeout. They missed and that was it. GaelNation won, 88-86.

No. 3 Boeheim's Army (Syracuse Alumni) vs. No. 14 DuBois Dream
Boeheim’s Army was the only team to begin its blowout from the get-go. They shot 41 percent from deep in the first half and jumped out to a 14-0 lead. The gap was 20 at the half. In the second half, they changed gears and ran the break. DuBois Dream was small, with their tallest man at 6-foot-8, and that showed. Rick Jackson and DaShonte Riley had their way inside and it ended as a lopsided finish, 99-66.

No. 7 Team Fancy vs. No. 10 Rebel Riders (Rider Alumni)
The gym was rather hollow compared to earlier in the day, but the intensity wasn’t cut out. Things got chippy by the game's end, with the Rebel Riders losing, 77-70. However, two local guys put up notable efforts. Temple’s Ramone Moore posted 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting. And Jason Thompson, a 6-foot-11 Medford, New Jersey, native and Rider alum who spent eight seasons in the NBA, totaled 12 points and 16 boards. You might remember Thompson from a certain trade involving the Sixers a few years back (think: pick swap). He most recently played professionally in China. 

Big East game of the year on tap for Villanova

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USA Today Images

Big East game of the year on tap for Villanova

NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Amy Fadool and senior producer Sean Kane get you set for all the weekend’s local college basketball games with Fastbreak Friday. Look for this column every Friday during the college basketball season.
 
No. 3 Villanova (23-3, 10-3 Big East) at No. 4 Xavier (24-3, 12-2), Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
SK
: Villanova limps into Saturday's Top 5 showdown with No. 4 Xavier in both a literal and figurative sense. The third-ranked Wildcats will once again be without Phil Booth as he recovers from a broken hand. Eric Paschall is still rounding into form after returning from the concussion protocol in Wednesday's loss at Providence. Then there's Omari Spellman, who played against Providence with a facemask after suffering a facial fracture last weekend.
 
Injuries are the norm this time of year — every team in the country is dealing with them in some fashion. But there's no doubt that injuries to key players have taken their toll on the Wildcats, who have lost two of their last three games and didn't play particularly well in the one game they managed to win.

Wednesday's 76-71 loss to Providence was Villanova's worst performance of the season. The Wildcats turned the ball over 19 times, shot just 3 of 20 from three-point range and missed a handful of critical free throws. As a result, they trailed for the vast majority of the game, fighting an uphill battle they weren't able to win because of an uncharacteristic number of mental and physical mistakes.
 
But this is no time for Jay Wright's team to harp on the past. Regular-season games don't get much bigger than Saturday's visit to Xavier. Let's run through the checklist of what's at stake. The winner hops into the driver's seat in the race for the Big East regular-season championship, a title that Villanova has claimed in each of the last four seasons. If Villanova loses Saturday, it would fall two games behind Xavier in the loss column in the league standings. The Musketeers have just three games remaining after Saturday, so a two-game lead with three left pretty much wraps up the league title for Xavier. If Villanova wins Saturday, it would pull even with Xavier in the loss column but would own the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep of the Musketeers. In that case, the Wildcats could win a fifth straight Big East regular-season championship by winning their remaining four games.
 
In addition to the regular-season league title, the accompanying No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament also hangs in the balance. Most importantly, No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament are also on the line. At the moment, both Villanova and Xavier are projected as 1-seeds in the Field of 68 next month. Saturday's winner will strengthen its grip on a No. 1 seed by adding a Top 5 win to its resume. The loser will be in serious jeopardy of missing out on any chance to be on the top line come Selection Sunday.
 
There's also the possibility of Villanova losing two straight games for the first time since March 2013. The Wildcats take a lot of pride in being able to bounce back following a poor performance. They'll have a golden opportunity to display that characteristic yet again in front of a national audience on Saturday.
 
The Wildcats are well aware of the importance of this weekend's matchup with Xavier. But that doesn't mean they'll treat the game any differently than the rest of their games this season. The one-game-at-a-time mindset has served the Villanova program well over the last five years. Jalen Brunson personifies that approach, and I expect him to come out extra motivated following his worst game of the season at Providence.
 
Xavier has plenty going for it on Saturday. First and foremost, the Musketeers will be super motivated to essentially wrap up their first-ever Big East regular-season championship. Xavier is led by a senior class of Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura, Sean O'Mara and Kerem Kanter, a group that would like nothing more than to end their careers by dethroning Villanova as kings of the Big East. Xavier is also playing at home against a team that beat them by 24 points earlier this season, so the revenge factor is strong.
 
But I think the character of the Villanova program ends up carrying the day. Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo and Paschall have played in and won plenty of big games. For the first time in their careers, they are being doubted by people on the outside. I expect the Wildcats to seize this opportunity to show they're still the class of the Big East despite their recent struggles. Look for a few big plays from Brunson down the stretch.
 
Villanova 78, Xavier 75
 
Houston (20-5, 10-3 AAC) at Temple (15-11, 7-7), Sunday at 4 p.m.
AF: The Owls have found something at this point in the season, and it couldn’t come at a better time because February is the month it seems that the NCAA Tournament selection committee pays attention to the most. 
 
So it would have been a huge resume-builder if Temple was able to keep that lead over Top 20 ranked Wichita State on the road Thursday night. The Owls rained down 11 threes in the first half to build a 15-point lead. They scored 56 points in the opening frame, a season high. There was a game a month ago when Temple scored only 39 in the entire game.
 
The Shockers defense didn’t let that scoring continue in the second half, and they shut down Obi Enechionyia down the stretch. The senior did finish with 17 points, but he scored 11 of the Owls' first 13 points after the opening tip-off.
 
It was the first loss in six games for Fran Dunphy’s team. Coming in, the Owls had won five in a row and seven of their last eight. If they want to get back on the winning streak, they’ll have a tough test this weekend with Houston.
 
The Cougars just took down No. 5 Cincinnati for the program’s first win over a top-five team in over 20 years. It also gave Houston its 20th win of the season. One of the key factors in the upset win for Houston was offensive rebounds — 11 of them led to 17 second-chance points. When you are supposedly overmatched, taking advantage of those opportunities is key for pulling off the upset.
 
The good news is that Temple has been playing well and shooting well. The bad news is that so is Houston. But this one is at the Liacouras Center and it’s Hooter the Owl’s birthday party. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for mascots.
 
Temple 71, Houston 68
 
Penn (17-7, 7-1 Ivy) at Columbia (6-15, 3-5), Friday at 7 p.m.
Penn (17-7, 7-1 Ivy) at Cornell (9-12, 3-5), Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

SK: Penn has reached the midway point of the Ivy League schedule deadlocked with Harvard atop the conference standings. The Quakers missed an opportunity to take control of the league last weekend when they suffered their first conference loss at Harvard. But this weekend offers a chance to get back on the winning track against a pair of middling teams in Columbia and Cornell. Granted both games are on the road and as even the top-ranked teams in the country can attest, road games are no bargain this time of year.
 
The Quakers have no margin for error if they hope to win the Ivy League title and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Penn beat both Columbia and Cornell earlier this season at the Palestra but both games were tightly contested. Sophomore big man AJ Brodeur continues to play the role of steadying force for Penn, averaging 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in his last three games. Brodeur put up a season-high 30 points in the first meeting of the season against Columbia. Look for another big effort by Brodeur on Friday to get Penn's weekend road trip off to a winning start.
 
Penn 70, Columbia 63
Penn 67, Cornell 60

 
Duquesne (15-11, 6-7 A-10) at Saint Joseph's (11-14, 6-7), Saturday at 6 p.m.
AF
: The Hawks picked up a rare road win this week when they took down Fordham Wednesday. Yes, the Rams are at the bottom of the Atlantic 10 standings, but a win is a win, and it snapped an eight-game road losing streak for St. Joe’s.
 
The Hawks are back home this weekend with a chance to make it three wins in a row when they welcome Duquesne to town. The Hawks' last two wins have come against teams below them in the conference standings. That will not be the case for the rest of February when they’ll face teams either tied with or above them in the A-10.
 
The Dukes are one such team at 6-7 in the standings, but they do have an overall winning record, something the Hawks nor their most recent opponents can say. Duquesne is much improved this year, already posting five more wins at this point than it had all of last season. Keith Dambrot has been a home-run hire for the Dukes, and if that name sounds familiar, you are either a big MAC fan, a big Akron Zips fan or a huge LeBron James fan. Dambrot coached LBJ in high school and is the winningest coach in Akron history.
 
So there are your fun facts for the day. I’d like to think that St. Joe’s has also turned a bit of a corner but they had a lackluster second half in the win over Fordham, a team much less talented than the Dukes squad coming in this weekend.
 
Duquesne 72, Saint Joseph’s 67
 
George Mason (12-14, 6-7 A-10) at La Salle (10-16, 4-9), Saturday at 2 p.m.
SK
: La Salle hasn't been showing much punch as the regular season winds down. The Explorers have lost three in a row and are 3-9 in their last 12. The latest setback came in the form of an 11-point home loss to St. Bonaventure on Tuesday. Sophomore guard Saul Phiri was a bright spot, scoring a career-high 22 points and knocking down 5 of 9 threes. It was an impressive performance for a guy averaging a little over six points per game on the season.
 
Saturday's visit from George Mason represents a chance for La Salle to rediscover a little winning mojo. The Patriots are only a couple games ahead of the Explorers in the A-10 standings but they've won three of their last four. It will be telling if the Explorers come out swinging Saturday afternoon or if they've already packed it in for the season. I expect a spirited effort. La Salle is every bit as talented as George Mason and more importantly in desperate need of some good vibes at this point in the season. Expect the Explorers to pull out a tight one and end their three-game losing skid.
 
La Salle 77, George Mason 74
 
Drexel (11-17, 5-10 CAA) at Hofstra (16-11, 9-6), Saturday at 4 p.m.
AF
: Earlier, I gave you some fun facts about Duquesne and its improvement from last season. So let’s continue that theme with Drexel. The Dragons already have two more wins than they did all of last season, and more importantly, they also already have two more conference wins than they earned all of last season. 
 
They’ve done that with some improbable wins over teams that, on paper, they should have lost handily to.
 
Thursday, it was almost another one of those type of wins for Drexel when it nearly took down one of the top CAA teams on the road with a narrow loss to Northeastern. Now, a chance to do it against Hofstra. The Pride are close to the top of the CAA, with a winning record and wins over Northeastern and William and Mary under their belts.
 
Yes, on paper this should be a Hofstra win. But I have picked Drexel to lose too many of these games this year and seemingly every time I do that, I get it wrong. So if I’m going down, I’m going down swinging. The Dragons are showing fight and firepower. They can score and defend with the best teams in their conference. Yes, it’s on the road, but I like them to snap their three-game losing streak.
 
Drexel 75, Hofstra 74
 
Prediction records
Sean Kane: 23-10
Amy Fadool: 21-16

Misery continues for lowly Delaware

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AP Images

Misery continues for lowly Delaware

BOX SCORE

TOWSON, Md. -- Mike Morsell had 19 points and Brian Starr added 15 as Towson held Delaware to two points over the final four minutes to win 67-65 on Thursday night.

Delaware's Ryan Allen pulled up to shoot a 3-pointer in the final seconds, but Eddie Keith II blocked it to secure the win.

Trailing 63-61, Keith hit a jumper with 3:33 remaining to tie and Alex Thomas split a pair of free throws to give the Tigers a 64-63 lead with 2:49 left. Keith added another free throw and Starr dropped in two more before Delaware's Ryan Daley scored on a fast break to close to 67-65 with 14 seconds left.

Delaware had a 32-30 halftime advantage but the Tigers (18-10, 8-7 Colonial Athletic Association) won the second period 37-33. There were 16 ties and 12 lead changes in the game.

Morsell hit 3 of 6 from distance and Starr made 4 of 7 from the floor with two treys.

Ryan Daly and Anthony Mosley had 18 points apiece to lead Delaware (11-17, 4-11), who have lost nine straight.