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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 18, 2010

NCAA hoops: Villanova tops Robert Morris 73-70 in OT


Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Scottie Reynolds and No. 2 seed Villanova nearly had their NCAA tournament run end in the biggest of upsets.

Reynolds responded to his benching with a clutch performance at the foul line in the final minutes of regulation, and the Wildcats survived a scare from Robert Morris in a 73-70 overtime victory Thursday in the NCAA tournament.

Coach Jay Wright sat Reynolds at the start of the game to make a "teaching point," and he missed 13 of 15 shots from the floor. But the senior star made seven of eight free throws in the final 3:06 to send the game into overtime, finishing with 20 points.

Karon Abraham scored 23 for Robert Morris (23-13), which was on the brink of becoming only the fifth No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 and the first since 2001. Abraham let fly a 25-footer in OT that cut it to 71-70 with 10.2 seconds left, but an off-balance 3 at the buzzer was no good.

The Colonials left the court to a standing ovation.

The Wildcats (25-7), trying to reach their second straight Final Four, entered having lost five of seven and were a surprising pick for the No. 2 seed in the South Regional.

That was only the start of the shockers.

First came the news that Reynolds, their team leader and top scorer had been benched. Then Robert Morris nearly sent them all packing way earlier than expected.

Like top teams do, the Wildcats found their way.

Reynolds couldn't find the basket, but he never stopped hustling in the second half. His sliding save of a loose ball at Robert Morris' end led to him making two free throws at the other end and cutting it to 55-51.

The Colonials coughed up the ball again, Reynolds was fouled again and he delivered again on both attempts from the line and it was 55-53 with 2:10 left.

Robert Morris committed their 21st turnover and notice a pattern? fouled Reynolds. Two more from the line and it was tied at 55-all with 1:48 left in regulation.

Abraham made a tough layup after splitting through traffic to go up two, Mouphtaou Yarou tied it with 52.8 seconds remaining, and the Wildcats missed a last-gasp tip at the buzzer.

Reynolds hit his only 3 of the game in OT to give the Wildcats a cushion, and although Abraham kept the Colonials close, it wasn't enough.

Abraham, a 5-foot-9 guard with a mohawk, put most of the soldout crowd solidly behind Robert Morris in the second half on a pair of highlight reel plays. His first came from just beyond the arc, he banked an off-balance 3 and crashed to the court on a foul. He made the free throw for the rare four-point play and a 42-34 lead.

He followed that by scooting down the baseline and tossing up a one-handed layup that went up and in for an eight-point lead and brought out cheers of "Robert Morris! Robert Morris!"

Reynolds and Cory Fisher were both benched for the start, but their punishment didn't last long. Reynolds sat out 4 minutes and Fisher checked in about 30 seconds later. Wright held forward Taylor King out the season finale against West Virginia for the same "teaching point."

The Colonials came out firing from 3-point range in an early attempt to rattle the Wildcats. Abraham sank his first three 3s a run-and-shoot from way beyond the arc brought the fans to life and helped them take a lead they wouldn't relinquish until there was 1:48 left.

Robert Morris never could build the lead to double digits, even with a 21-10 edge on the boards and holding the Wildcats to only 30 percent shooting.

For all the Colonials did right, they did just as much wrong. Those early 3s from Abraham helped, but the Colonials missed their next eight attempts. Robert Morris turned the ball over 12 times to keep the Wildcats in the hunt.