Villanova Wildcats

Jermaine Samuels scores 29 points as Villanova snaps losing streak with win over No. 10 Marquette

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USA Today Images/Eric Hartline

Jermaine Samuels scores 29 points as Villanova snaps losing streak with win over No. 10 Marquette

VILLANOVA — Jermaine Samuels' point production mirrored Villanova's win total over the last three games: a big 0.

Samuels morphed from scoreless to sensational to deny No. 10 Marquette a piece of the Big East crown Wednesday night. He hit five 3-pointers and scored a career-high 29 points as defending national champion Villanova snapped a three-game losing streak with a 67-61 win over the Golden Eagles.

Saddiq Bey hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:31 left to help the Wildcats (21-8, 12-4 Big East) keep their hopes alive for a conference title with a needed win in their final game this season at their on-campus arena. Villanova won its first 10 Big East games and appeared headed to a No. 1 seed in the league tournament next month until it hit the skids on the road -- losses to St. John's, Georgetown and Xavier that opened the door for Marquette.

The Golden Eagles (23-5, 12-3) pounced and would have secured both a share of the Big East title and the top seed in the conference tournament with a victory against `Nova.

But who would have counted on Samuels to spoil Marquette's run?

Villanova has tried a maze of options throughout an uneven season to find a reliable third scorer after the 1-2 threat of Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. Booth, who averages 19.6 points, scored 17 and Paschall snapped a streak of 23 straight games in double figures with four points Wednesday. Paschall's off night left the offense open for another option -- and Samuels delivered.

"We've been trying to teach him what kind of decisions to make when they don't guard you," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

The decision was clear, shoot!

Samuels had averaged only 4.1 points per game this season -- and that included a 15-point game with three 3-pointers in a win against Temple in early December. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound sophomore forward hit only seven more 3s during that span and was somehow scoreless in each of his last three games. He missed his only two field goal tries (both 3s) and did not attempt a free throw during Villanova's losing streak.

"I just want to be aggressive and make plays," Samuels said.

Left open against the Golden Eagles, Samuels hit two 3s in a 15-point first half and shot 10 of 19 overall from the floor.

"I wish we weren't the only team he hit 3s against," Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. "They put you in very tough positions because of their ability to shoot from the other positions."

Samuels buried a tying 3 in the second half that made it 48-all and converted a three-point play that made it 51-all.

The reason for all the ties? Markus Howard, who scored 25 points, reached 1,000 points in his career and proved again why he's the top Big East player of the year candidate. Howard nailed a pair of go-ahead 3s in the second half and scored 13 of Marquette's first 23 points in the period.

Howard was whistled for his fourth foul at 9:28 in the second half and went to the bench, slowing Marquette's roll.

"Getting stops and rebounding, that's what changes the game," Booth said.

With Howard out, the five-point favorite Wildcats did just enough to stay in the Big East race. Bey made the decisive 3 for a 61-60 lead and Booth, the two-time national champ, hit a pair of free throws with 1:30 left to keep it a three-point game. Samuels sealed it with two from the line with 11.1 seconds left that had fans going wild on senior night.

"This was March-level intensity," Wojciechowski said. "It was a heck of a college basketball game. Villanova deserved to win. They made more plays when it counted the most."

Big picture 
Marquette beat Villanova 66-65 at home this month but has not defeated the Wildcats in consecutive games since sweeping the season series in 2011-12.

With two regular-season games remaining, Villanova needs Marquette to drop at least one of its final three to have a shot at the Big East title.

Skid row 
The Wildcats, who fell out of the Top 25 this week, were on their first three-game losing streak since the 2012-13 season.

Up next 
Marquette plays next Wednesday at home against Creighton.

Villanova hosts Butler on Saturday at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.

Villanova's buzzer-beating win over Georgetown in 1999 was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

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AP Images

Villanova's buzzer-beating win over Georgetown in 1999 was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

January 30th 1999.  I was a 15-year-old who wondered how the Phillies would build around Scott Rolen, marveled at Lindros and LeClair’s 40 goal seasons, happy to have Iverson back after a lockout and was suspicious about some guy named ‘Reid’ the Eagles just hired.  

In the midst of all this, my best bud, Ryan Bennett and his family, scored tickets to Villanova vs. Georgetown at the now Wells Fargo Center for a Saturday noon tipoff and they were kind enough to invite me along.  

I remember Ryan and I had a CYO High School basketball game that night in Lansdale at 7 p.m.

“No problem, plenty of time”, we thought. 

The Bennett’s picked me up at that morning and off we went to what would be the best game I ever saw... 

Our seats were in the upper level, 1st row, in a corner at the end Nova would be shooting at in the 2nd half.

Steve Lapas’ Wildcats opened with a 13-0 run on Craig Esherick’s Hoyas. Esherick had just taken over for the legend, John Thompson. 

Just as an aside. My friend and I kept thinking Esherick looked A LOT like Norm MacDonald as Burt Reynolds (aka Turd Ferguson) on SNL’s celebrity Jeopardy. You be the judge…

Anyway, back to basketball.  

In the 2nd half, the Wildcats built a 17-point lead only to see it wiped away with a 17-0 Hoyas run. Georgetown’s Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje’s lay-up tied the game at 67 with 2:30 left. RBB was a Cameroonian baller before it was trendy. 

I remember a slew of guys were in foul trouble. Including RBB and Malik Allen.

In the final :45 seconds, tied at 69-69, both Nova and G-town sent guys to the line to shoot two. Neither team hit a free throw. Missed all four.  

Nova had one final chance on an inbounds play with 11 seconds left in regulation. John Celestand got the ball, tried working for a shot, gave it up to Allen who shot and missed from the top of the key as time expired.  

1st OT

The Hoyas struck first with a three, then three players fouled out; the Hoyas’ RBB and Jaleel Watkins and Nova’s T.J. Caouette. Six players would end up fouling out of this game in total. 

With :11 seconds left and Nova down two, Brooks Sales hit two free throws to tie it at 78. Kevin Braswell, a freshman guard for the Hoyas brought the ball up and was picked up by Celestand. Braswell rose for the game winner with :03 seconds on the clock and Celestand stuffed him! The ball never even left the freshman’s hand! Celestand was all over it. Smothered! 

Time ran out. 

2nd OT 

The game seesawed a bit. Howard Brown banked in a three for Nova. Braswell responded with a driving lay-up. 82-81, Georgetown.

With a little over 2:00 left, Allen, fouled out.  Nova would keep pace thanks to a huge three from Brian Lynch with just over a minute left that gave the Cats an 87-86 lead.   

Then things got bleak for Nova. 

Georgetown took a 90-87 lead on another Braswell layup and a free throws from Daymond Jackson and Anthony Perry. Perry made the first of two, missed the second. Nova secured the rebound and pushed up the floor with :14 seconds left. 

Then a Nova Miracle. 

The Wildcats, down 3, crossed half court and set up their offense with nine seconds left. They worked it to Brown in the corner. The same corner my friend and I were sitting over in the upper level. Brown let it fly and hit the three to tie the game at 90. With 2.4 seconds left the Hoyas inbounded under the basket and threw a pass to half court. The ball was tipped by Nova and wound up in the hands of the Cats’ Jermaine Medley. Medley grabbed the ball, spun and shot all in one motion. 

Splash. 

Buzzer Beater. 

Nova Wins! 

The Wildcats scored six points in under four seconds to win in double overtime, 93-90. 

Me, Ryan and his parents jumped with excitement, high-fived and then ran to the parking lot. We had our own game to play. We got from the upper level to the car in record time and we were one of the first cars out of the lot. We just made our CYO game in Lansdale, which for the record, we won.

One of the things that made being at this game so awesome was that the broadcast had a horrible camera angle for Medley’s game winner. ESPN didn’t capture the shot live. When Ryan and I got to our game that night, a teammate couldn’t believe we “were at that game.” He said it wasn’t until replays aired that people at home actually saw what happened.  

Fast forward 17 years. I’m boarding a flight, Charlotte to Philadelphia. Christmas Eve. None-other-than Steve Lappas sits next to me. We get to talking. Incredibly nice guy. I bring up this Nova game. Two things he told me. He knew Celestand had Braswell on that block in the first OT and he still can’t believe how Medley made that circus shot at the end. Neither can I. 

Nova-Georgetown double OT, truly the best game I ever saw.  

The Kris Jenkins shot vs. North Carolina was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

The Kris Jenkins shot vs. North Carolina was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

Reuben Frank and Sean Kane both chose the 2016 national championship game between Villanova and North Carolina as the greatest game they ever saw in person. Reuben was there as a reporter, Sean was there as a fan. Here are each of their perspectives. 

Reuben Frank: We're taught from Day 1 as journalists to never let your emotions show, to remain unbiased, and for the first 33 years, six months and 12 days of my career I had a perfect record. Then Kris Jenkins hit a jumper. So much for objectivity. I was court-side at NRG Stadium in Houston - second row, center court - when Jenkins his that 26-footer at the buzzer to give Villanova the 2016 NCAA Championship over North Carolina, and I'm pretty sure that Mike Kern of the Daily News, sitting to my left, and I both stood up and looked at each other and screamed "OHHHHHHHHHHH" at the top of our lungs when the ball splashed through the basket as the buzzer sounded.

Then, as the confetti rained down from the roof and bedlam ensued, Jenkins for some reason ran right in front of me to celebrate and I began taking as many pictures as I could. The Super Bowl was dramatic and unforgettable. But for that Villanova-UNC game I was on top of the action, just a few feet from the court, just a few feet where I lost my cool after 33 years, just a few feet from the greatest shot in college basketball history. 

Sean Kane: This game narrowly edges out Super Bowl 52 and the classic Duke/Kentucky regional final at the Spectrum in 1992. I'm fortunate enough to have been in attendance for arguably the two greatest shots in college basketball history - Christian Laettner's turnaround jumper to beat Kentucky and Kris Jenkins' three-pointer to beat North Carolina. The 2016 national title game is my choice for a number of reasons. Growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, I've been a Villanova fan for as long as I can remember. My grandfather went to Villanova. My uncle and cousin went there too. I've been going to Villanova basketball and football games since I was a little boy. So to be there to see my favorite team win a national championship at the buzzer? Nothing tops that. 

The 2016 Final Four was the first time I attended a Villanova NCAA Tournament game as a fan. I covered Villanova in the tournament every year from 2006-2009, trying my best to stay objective. But going as a fan was a new experience. My Dad and I decided to go as soon as Villanova beat Kansas in the Elite Eight. My wife immediately got us plane tickets and a hotel room in Houston and we left the morning of the national semifinals. We were there for Villanova's historic 44-point win over Oklahoma on Saturday night, the biggest blowout in Final Four history. The PGA Tour was in Houston that weekend, so we spent Sunday watching golf. It all worked out perfectly. Then the main event - Villanova and North Carolina in the championship game on Monday night. North Carolina had ended Villanova's season in the NCAA Tournament three times during the Jay Wright Era - 2005, 2009 and 2013. But this time was different thanks to Phil Booth's 20 points off the bench and Ryan Arcidiacono finding Jenkins for the win as the buzzer sounded. It was one of the greatest games in college basketball history. It ended with the best shot in NCAA Tournament history. And I was there to see it with my Dad, who raised me as a Villanova fan. That's as good as it gets for me.