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NCAA TOURNAMENT: EAST REGIONAL

Villanova's flight to Detroit goes coast-to-coast

Wildcats are headed to Final Four after edging Pittsburgh, 78-76, on Scottie Reynolds' Tyus Edney-like drive for the winning basket with a half-second to play.

March 29, 2009|Chris Dufresne

BOSTON — Scottie Reynolds of Villanova joined Tyus Edney of UCLA in the annals of NCAA tournament last-second dribble-drives toward camera flashes and forever.

Reynolds' floater with 0.5 seconds left Saturday lifted Villanova to a 78-76 victory over Pittsburgh in the East Regional final at TD Banknorth Garden.

"Oh man," the junior hero said afterward, "there's so many emotions going through my head. It's something you think about as kid."

Edney's second-round game-winner against Missouri in 1995 propelled UCLA toward its 11th national title.

What Reynolds' shot does for Villanova will be answered next week in Detroit, the Wildcats' first trip to the Final Four since 1985.

That year, eighth-seeded Villanova shocked No. 1 Georgetown in the title game to score one of the most improbable upsets in sports history.

That was also the last time Villanova defeated a top-seeded team in the NCAA tournament.

Reynolds' winning shot against Pittsburgh -- the first No. 1-seeded team to lose in this year's tournament -- capped a brutish rematch of Big East titans that could have been played in helmets and shoulder pads.

Reynolds was bumped so hard on the final shot, by Pittsburgh's Gilbert Brown, he might have gotten bailed out by a foul.

But the referees let it go, and Reynolds let it ripple.

"I didn't even see the ball go in, actually," Reynolds said.

Villanova players started to charge the court after Reynolds' basket, as assistant coach Doug West screamed that the game wasn't over and crazy things could still happen.

A crazy thing almost did.

Pittsburgh guard Levance Fields' three-quarter-court heave at the buzzer almost ruined Reynolds' big moment.

"When the ball left Levance's hand, it was right on target to go in," Reynolds said.

But it didn't.

Reynolds' game-winner capped a second half that had 14 lead changes after the score was 45-44.

And, in the end, Villanova almost let it slip away after blowing a 76-72 lead with 20 seconds left.

First, DeJuan Blair's basket for Pittsburgh with 10.6 seconds left cut the lead to two.

Then, it figured that Villanova would inbound the ball and await the quick Pitt foul, with one made free throw getting the Wildcats a three-point lead and two virtually cinching the victory.

Instead, Reggie Redding attempted a full-court baseball pass to Dante Cunningham, leading to a scramble for the ball and Fields' getting fouled by Villanova's Corey Fisher.

That meant two shots to tie. Fields made the first and then, after a Villanova timeout to let him think it over, he sank the second to tie it at 76-76.

That set up another, gulp, important inbounds pass by Redding, though Cunningham swore the previous errant pass was already a distant memory.

"We forgot about it," he said. "I don't even know what pass you're talking about."

Villanova Coach Jay Wright said if Redding's pass had cost his team the game, "we would have applauded Reggie for the guts to make the play."

In baseball poetry, there was once a sequence that caught on -- a double-play combination involving Tinker to Evers to Chance.

In Villanova poetry, the exchange will be remembered as Redding to Cunningham to Reynolds.

With Pitt pressing full-court, Redding tossed it from out of bounds at the baseline to Cunningham, who passed the ball to Reynolds, who took off, as Cunningham remembers, like a jet.

It was tough game to win but a tougher game to lose.

Villanova improved to 30-7 as Pittsburgh's season ended at 31-5.

Dwayne Anderson led the Wildcats with 17 points, Reynolds scored 15 and Cunningham had 14.

Pittsburgh senior Sam Young scored 28 points in his last collegiate game.

Blair, a Charles Barkley-like post presence, finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

"They just had more points," a disconsolate Blair said.

Reynolds sat at the post-game news conference clutching the game ball he used to make Villanova history.

"They said this is it," a smiling Reynolds said. "So I believe this is it. They could be lying to me."

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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