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

La Salle suffers demoralizing loss to struggling UMass

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USA Today Images

La Salle suffers demoralizing loss to struggling UMass

AMHERST, Mass. -- Zach Lewis scored a career-high 37 points, including six three-pointers, and Massachusetts pulled away from La Salle 84-71 on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak.

Lewis, whose 37-point effort was the best for any player in the Atlantic 10 this season, hit nine of his 16 field goal attempts overall and was a perfect 13-for-13 at the free throw line. Dejon Jarreau added 20 points and four three-ponters for UMass (14-15, 4-12).

Pookie Powell hit five 3-pointers and scored 24 points, and B.J. Johnson added 20 points to lead La Salle (14-13, 8-8).

Both teams shot similar percentages and had similar three-point totals, but the Minutemen finished with a plus-14 advantage at the free throw line.

La Salle remained within striking distance but a 13-4 stretch for UMass midway through the second half pushed its lead to 63-51. The Minutemen kept the Explorers at arm's length the rest of the way.

Eric Paschall's game rounding out when Villanova needs it most

Eric Paschall's game rounding out when Villanova needs it most

Those on the outside are now starting to see what those on the inside of Villanova basketball program have seen for the last year and a half.

Eric Paschall can play.

Paschall on Saturday had the biggest game of his career – at least his Villanova career – with 19 points, six rebounds and two steals in the Wildcats’ Big East-clinching win over Creighton at the Pavilion.

With Darryll Reynolds sidelined since early February with a rib injury, the Fordham transfer has been starting and playing at a high level. But he was at his best on Saturday when his team needed him the most.

Paschall was essentially a guard at Fordham, but with Reynolds out and Omari Spellman forced to sit out the year, Paschall has been playing a lot of the 5 for Villanova, and against Creighton, he effectively neutralized 6-foot-11 Blue Jays center Justin Patton, who managed just four points – 9 ½ below his average.

“He’s getting better, that’s the biggest thing,” teammate Josh Hart said of Paschall. “He’s down there battling with Patton, a 7-footer, he’s down there battling with 6-10, 6-11 guys just about every night, and he’s battling and battling and we just tell him, keep working like that. That’s more important to us than him going out there scoring 20.

“We know he’s talented enough to score 20, you saw that (Saturday), but the way he’s battling and the way he’s not being frustrated and just keeps getting better, for us that’s the best part.”

Paschall averaged 15.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game two years ago for the Rams, earning Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year honors.

He was one of only three NCAA Division I freshmen who averaged at least 15.9 points and 5 ½ rebounds per game. The others were D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State and Jahlil Okafor of Duke, who are both now double-digit scorers in the NBA.

But to play at Villanova, you have to play defense, and that’s where Paschall has shown the most improvement.

“Eric is developing as a Villanova basketball player defensively in terms of executing far better than anyone knows,” coach Jay Wright said. “We know. When he’s in the game, we are executing at a high level. We’re just starting to see what he can do offensively, but in our program, you’ve got to be able to (play defense) first and he’s been doing that all year.

“(He’s) getting better and better, and today you just saw a glimpse of what you’ll probably see next year, but you’ve got to get the basics down first, which he’s done an incredible job of this year. It’s like I tell you with Dante (DiVincenzo), these guys play against him in practice, they’re not surprised when they see him do that, but I know everybody else is, because they don’t get to see it all the time.”

It’s not easy to transfer into a new program and get used to new players, a new coach, a new system, a new philosophy.

“It was a process,” Paschall said. “The biggest thing was getting used to what they wanted, and that’s defense and rebounding. That took some getting used to, but once I understood what they were looking for from me and what they wanted me to do, that just made it easy.

“The guys welcomed me with open arms. It’s a brotherhood here and we’re all brothers and they made me feel like I was a part of it from Day 1. It can be hard sometimes as a transfer coming in, but they made it easy. It’s just a matter of focusing on my job.”

Overall, Paschall is averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and shooting 50 percent from the field in an average of 21 minutes a night. But during these last five starts, he’s 21 for 32 from the field (66 percent) and is averaging 9.8 points per game.

“Eric, he came in knowing what coach wanted, knowing what coach’s philosophy is and how coach wants things, and he’s come and in done what’s expected,” Jalen Brunson said.

“He’s done a great job for us and we’re extremely confident in him. It’s hard coming in front a different school, coming in and learning a new system, learning the philosophy, but he’s done a good job.”

Paschall can play the 2 through the 5, so he gives Wright a lot of versatility.

His 19 points Saturday were his most as a Wildcat and his most in any game since he scored 21 for Fordham vs. George Mason on Feb. 18, 2015.

When asked about his role, he just pointed at Hart and Kris Jenkins.

“Just listen to these guys, making sure I have my head clear every game,” he said. “They do a great job of telling me what to do during the games and having my attitude right during the games so I can just go out there play hard, play together, play smart, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

As thin as Villanova is – Wright has played just six guys in his regular rotation since Reynolds got hurt – Paschall has been a life-saver.

It’s hard not to imagine how talented Villanova will be next year with Spellman, Paschall, Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth, Brunson and DiVincenzo.

But first there's a game Saturday against Georgetown, the Big East Tournament in New York and then the NCAA Tournament.

“We see him getting better every day with his decision making,” Hart said of Paschall. “Last year he definitely kicked our butt a lot when he was on the scout team.

“One thing we always had a question about was how was he going to fit in with just playing hard the way we play defense, and he’s doing the best job, and he keeps getting better, and seeing him develop and seeing him grow has been amazing. Looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do in the future.”