Rutgers stuns No. 9 Villanova with four-point play

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Rutgers stuns No. 9 Villanova with four-point play

Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Posted: 10:08 p.m. Updated: 11:36 p.m.

By Reuben Frank
CSNPhilly.com

BOX SCORE

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Jay Wright: I dont think we crumbled.

Actually, crumbled is exactly what Villanova did.

The Wildcats led Rutgers by 13 points with 4:07 left. They led by nine with two minutes left. They led by five with 11 seconds left.

And still they lost 77-76 on Jonathan Mitchells four-point play with 0.8 seconds left in the game.

Rutgers scored 60 points in the games first 37 minutes and 17 in the final 2:41. Rutgers shot 2-for-10 from three-point range in the first 36 minutes and 6-for-7 in the final four minutes.

Rutgers scored seven points in the games final seven seconds.

Tough way to lose a game, Wright said. Down the stretch, we didnt execute. Three-possession game, youve got to make the right decisions, the right plays. We didnt. When youre down nine, youve got to make all the right plays and the right decisions, and they did.

No. 9 Villanova led 67-54 with just over four minutes left before Rutgers woke up. The Scarlet Knights outscored the Wildcats 23-9 the rest of the way.

The Wildcats, who beat Rutgers by 16 on campus on Jan. 2, fell to 19-5 with their fourth loss in their last seven games.

Rutgers, which had lost four straight, improved to 13-11, 4-8 in the Big East and 1-5 against top-20 teams.

The last four or five possessions of the game, we didnt do anything right and they did everything right, Wright said. They made every correct play. Turn over the ball, give up threes, turn over the ball, give up threes. If we dont turn it over one time, were OK. If we turn it over and they dont make one of those threes, were still OK.

As ugly as things were down the stretch for Nova, Corey Fisher still had a chance to put the game away at the foul line with six seconds left, but after he missed the first and made the second, Novas lead was just three.

Wright elected not to foul and send Rutgers to the foul line, a decision he immediately regretted.

Talk about poor decisions -- I made one there, Wright said. We talk about it all the time. Thats one of those times you say, We should have fouled.

With under two seconds left, James Beatty swung the ball to Mitchell beyond the arc on the right wing. Fisher tried to deny the pass to Mitchell, and while his hand was still out in front of Mitchell, the 6-foot-7 senior forward squared up and released his shot.

Fishers hand smacked Mitchells hand, the ball sailed through the net, and just like that, the game was tied.

After a 'Nova timeout, Mitchell sank the foul shot, Villanova couldnt get a shot off, and the Rutgers faithful had their first chance to storm the court since the Roy Hinson Era.

I went to the line and could have won the game, Fisher said. I was confident, but I missed the first, made the second, and we knew they were going to try a three, because there wasnt time for them to go for two.

As I was going to deny Mitchell, the ball was in his hands, and when I was denying, he went up in my hand, made the tough shot, went to the free-throw line and made the shot.

Im a captain on this team, and I think we should have won the game, said Fisher, who had 23 points and 10 assists. I made a mistake, but were going to learn from it, and Im going to continue to get better as a player.

Wright said he had no problem with the way Fisher defended on the possession. He said Fisher did exactly what he was supposed to do.

I dont think it was a mistake, he said. I would say if it was. Youre supposed to deny there. If he went and whacked him, I would say, but he wasnt going to contest the shot, he was trying to deny the pass, the pass went over his hand, his hand was there, and to go through a hand and finish that play is a pretty tough play.

Mitchell finished with a game-high and career-high 25 points, including four in the final second.

I always tell myself, I always want to take the last shot, Mitchell said. I want the game on my shoulders. I just let it fly and the shot went in. Definitely the biggest shot of my life.

After I hit the shot, I couldnt believe it went in. I had to calm down and relax and tell myself, Hey, just another night in the gym when nobodys here and the lights are off. I stepped up as a senior should and hit the free throw.

Villanova lost despite shooting 56 percent from the field (24-for-43) and 50 percent from three-point range (8-for-16).

The Wildcats hurt themselves at the foul line, where they made just 20 of 27 shots. Thats from the No. 9 team in Division I in free-throw shooting.

Corey Stokes, battling turf toe, scored 10 points in the first half but only played eight minutes after halftime and didnt take a shot. He wasnt on the floor during Rutgers comeback.

Antonio Pena made seven of 10 shots for 15 points and added eight rebounds, and Mouphtaou Yarou contributed 10 points and five boards for Nova.

Im obviously disappointed in the outcome, but were going to have to learn from this, Wright said. Even if we won the game, if he doesnt make that 3, we still have a lot to learn from the way we finished that game. Its tough, but its part of playing in the Big East. Youve got to come back.

I thought we played well, we just didnt execute down the stretch, and if you dont execute down the stretch, in this league, youre going to lose.

I dont think we crumbled. I just think they made some great plays.

Things dont get any easier for Villanova, which hosts No. 4 Pitt Saturday night at the Pavilion.

We got Pittsburgh on Saturday, and its a tough team, and were going to go back to practice and learn from our mistakes, Pena said. It is tough, but weve just got to look forward to our next game. Big East, every team is going to come in and play.

Related: Big East Wrap: St. John's knocks off No. 10 UConn Green's triple-double leads Michigan State over PSU

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

NCAA Tournament wrap: UNC edges out Kentucky on Maye game-winner

NCAA Tournament wrap: UNC edges out Kentucky on Maye game-winner

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Luke Maye hit a jumper with 0.3 seconds left, and top-seeded North Carolina held off Kentucky 75-73 to earn the Tar Heels' second straight trip to the Final Four and 20th all-time in Sunday's showdown of college basketball's elite in the South Regional.

The Tar Heels (31-7) will play Midwest champ Oregon on Saturday in Phoenix in the national semifinal.

North Carolina took control with a 12-0 run within the final 5 minutes. Kentucky's freshmen De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk hit three quick 3s, the last two by Monk and his second with 7.2 seconds left tied it up at 73.

Theo Pinson brought the ball down, passed back to Maye. The sophomore from Huntersville, North Carolina, knocked it down for the win with his feet on the 3-point line.

The Wildcats had one last chance, but Derek Willis' inbound pass went out of bounds on the far end.

Kentucky (32-6) will miss out on the Final Four for the second straight year.

South Carolina beats Florida to reach first Final Four
NEW YORK -- It's only right that South Carolina's first trip to Final Four was earned through its defense.

A team known for a swarming zone used it effectively down the stretch to beat Florida 77-70 on Sunday and win the East Regional at Madison Square Garden.

Sindarius Thornwell scored 26 points for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks (26-10) against the fourth-seeded Gators (27-9) in the all-Southeastern Conference matchup.

South Carolina will face Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed from the West Regional, in the Final Four on Saturday at Glendale, Arizona.

"Gamecock Nation, we heard you loud and clear," coach Frank Martin roared as the team prepared to cut down the nets. "We'll see you in Phoenix."

The game was as close as expected until the final minute. There were 14 lead changes and 10 ties. The last lead change came on two free throws by Thornwell with 2:24 left that made it 65-63. Florida managed just three field goals over the final 3:55.

Thornwell, the regional MVP, followed the deciding free throws with a nice assist to Maik Kotsar for a 4-point lead. It seemed Thornwell, who scored eight straight points for the Gamecocks, was always where he needed to be including making a steal with 40 seconds left that turned into a 73-68 lead.

"I just made plays," Thornwell said. "Plays needed to be made down the stretch and I stepped up and made plays."

"Thornwell was just being Thornwell," Florida coach Mike White said of the SEC player of the year. "He's one of the best players in the country."

PJ Dozier added 17 points for the Gamecocks, Chris Silva had 13 and Kotsar 12.

It all totaled to a Final Four trip for Martin, he of the booming voice and terrifying faces.

Justin Leon had 18 points for the Gators who managed a 40-33 halftime lead on 7-for-12 shooting from 3-point range. But that was it. Florida was 0 for 14 from beyond the arc in the second half, a lot like the 0-for-17 effort the Gators had in their first meeting with South Carolina this season.

South Carolina, which forced Florida into 16 turnovers, finished 23 for 31 from the free throw line, including a 9-for-10 effort from Thornwell.

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Gonzaga reaches 1st Final Four; Oregon upsets Kansas

NCAA Tournament Wrap: Gonzaga reaches 1st Final Four; Oregon upsets Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tyler Dorsey poured in 27 points, Dillon Brooks added 17 and plucky Oregon ended Kansas' romp through the NCAA Tournament with a 74-60 victory Saturday night that gave the Ducks their first Final Four trip in nearly 80 years.

Dylan Ennis added 12 points for the Ducks (33-5), who took the lead with 16 minutes left in the first half and never trailed again, giving coach Dana Altman his first trip to the national semifinals.

They'll face the winner of Sunday's game between North Carolina and Kentucky in Glendale, Arizona.

Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III had 21 points in his final game for the Jayhawks (31-5), who had rolled to the Elite Eight by an average margin of 30 points. But their dream season ended with a thud just 40 minutes from campus on a night where very little went right (see full recap).

Gonzaga beats Xavier to reach 1st Final Four
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Nigel Williams-Goss scored 23 points while orchestrating Gonzaga's efficient offense, and the Zags finally shook their overrated tag by routing Xavier 83-59 on Saturday to reach the Final Four for the first time.

Gonzaga (36-1) has been dogged by criticism through the years despite winning consistently, in part for playing in a weak conference but also for never making the Final Four.

On the cusp of history, the Zags took it head on with a superb all-around game to give coach Mark Few the one missing piece of his resume.

Gonzaga found the range from the perimeter after struggling the first three NCAA games, making 12 of 24 from 3-point range. The defense, a soft spot in the past, shut down the underdog and 11th-seeded Musketeers (24-14) to win the West Region.

The Zags will face the winner between South Carolina and Florida in next week's Final Four in Arizona (see full recap).