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NCAA MEN'S TOURNAMENT: EAST REGIONAL

Villanova sends Duke packing

Wildcats rout Blue Devils, 77-54, and will play fellow Big East team Pittsburgh in the East Regional finals on Saturday.

March 27, 2009|Chris Dufresne

BOSTON — Call it the Boston Big East party.

Villanova followed Pittsburgh's victory against Xavier on Thursday night with a 77-54 victory over Duke at TD Banknorth Garden.

And that pits Villanova against Pittsburgh on Saturday in an East Regional final matchup of Big East foes. In the only meeting this year, the Wildcats defeated the Panthers, 67-57, on Jan. 28 in Philadelphia.

"I think everybody in the Big East likes this," Villanova Coach Jay Wright said.

Thursday's game against Duke was close . . . for 20 minutes. Villanova led by only three at the half but then, as the Wildcats did to UCLA last week, ultimately overwhelmed Duke with its swarms of players -- none taller than 6 feet 8.

Nine Villanova players scored and seven players had at least six points.

"It's really fun coaching a team when you know one or two guys aren't hitting shots, you know you've got five others that can make shots and make plays," Wright said.

When junior guard Scottie Reynolds made a three-pointer to put Villanova up by 18 with 5:51 left, Wildcats fans switched into party mode, shouting, "We want Pitt!"

Pitt they will get.

It will be the first time two Big East schools have met in a regional final since Providence and Georgetown in 1987. It also assures the Big East will advance at least one school to next week's Final Four.

With Connecticut defeating Purdue on Thursday in the West Regional in Glendale, Ariz., the Big East scored three victories on the day -- with a chance for two more today. Louisville plays Arizona in the Midwest and Syracuse plays Oklahoma in the South.

In 1985, three Big East schools advanced to the Final Four, with Villanova shocking Georgetown to win the national title.

Duke found out what UCLA did last week about Villanova -- the Wildcats are fast, furious and relentless.

Villanova, in consecutive games against UCLA and Duke, has defeated two programs with 14 combined national titles by 43 total points.

Villanova, which improved to 29-7, established a school record for victories.

Duke, which finished the year 30-7, was seeded second in the East but is headed back to the South after getting chased out of the Northeast.

How bad was it?

Gerald Henderson, the Blue Devils' star player, made only one of his 14 shots. But he wasn't the only Blue Devil off the mark.

Jon Scheyer made only three of his 18 tries, meaning two of Duke's top three scorers finished a combined four for 32.

"I would never think that in a game Jon and 'G' would go four for 32," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "OK. You're nuts. You're crazy. That just can't happen. But it did."

Duke made only 16 of its 60 shots, an abysmal 26.7%

This was not how the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champions wanted to finish the season.

"I'm just disappointed for them, not in them, " Krzyzewski said.

Reynolds led Villanova with 16 points, Dante Cunningham had 14 points to go with 11 rebounds, and Reggie Redding had 11.

Kyle Singler led Duke with 15 points.

Krzyzewski isn't choosing sides in Pittsburgh-Villanova on Saturday, but he does have an up-close perspective on one of the teams.

"They've got a chance to do something special," he said of Villanova, "because they can really handle the ball and they play very good defense and they're tough."

UCLA found out in Philadelphia last Saturday.

Duke found out Thursday in Boston.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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