MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—All eyes have been on Villanova’s sensational guards the entire season.
So no one can blame Boston College for concentrating on Allan Ray and Randy Foye and forgetting all about Will Sheridan.
Not even Sheridan.
“That’s what I would do,” Sheridan said.
Down 59-58 in the closing seconds of overtime, Sheridan set a screen for Ray and slipped behind the defense to get an inbounds pass under the hoop. Eagles forward Sean Williams was late getting over and charged with goaltending when he batted the shot away with 3 seconds left, giving Villanova the lead.
Louis Hinnant’s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer missed everything, allowing the Wildcats to escape with a 60-59 victory Friday night. They advance to play Florida in the Minneapolis Regional final Sunday.
“I turned around on the inbound and wondered how this man got open like that,” Williams said. “So I get there and I didn’t make it, I guess.”
Foye carried the load for most of the game, scoring 29 points and playing all 45 minutes to offset a horrendous night from Ray and the rest of Villanova’s vaunted four-guard lineup.
Foye scored six straight points for top-seeded Villanova (28-4) at the end of regulation, then added a 3-pointer and tough driving layup in overtime for a 58-55 lead.
“He was exhausted,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of Foye. “I said, ‘Do you have more?’ He said, ‘It’s my career. I have got it.’ He was the best.”
Jared Dudley and Craig Smith came right back with layups, the last one by Smith with 12 seconds to go to give No. 4 seed BC a 59-58 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Foye was foiled on a drive to the hoop and ‘Nova took the ball on an inbounds play under its own basket. With the Eagles (28-8) blanketing Foye on the play, Sheridan sneaked in for the open look—the same play that beat Cincinnati earlier in the year.
The Villanova faithful leaped out of their seats after the goaltending call, hoping their Wildcats might be headed back to the Final Four for the first time since Rollie Massimino’s underdogs shocked Georgetown for the national championship in 1985.
It was a heartbreaking loss for Boston College, which controlled the game for the first 35 minutes.
The Eagles slowed the game’s pace to a crawl to neutralize those super-quick Cats, leading by 14 points in the first half and nine midway through the second half. But they fumbled away a chance to play for the school’s first Final Four appearance.
Playing in their first regional semifinal since 1994, the Eagles looked every bit the newcomers. They committed 21 turnovers and had a hard time getting stars Smith and Dudley into the offense, despite an overwhelming height advantage.
“I can’t explain,” a somber Smith said. “It is pretty tough. … It was a tough loss losing by one. Not much you can say.”
Smith, the versatile forward with a tight end’s build, took just two shots in the first half. He finally started flexing his considerable muscle in the second half, making a tough layup for an eight-point lead with 10:27 to play, then flattening sophomore guard Kyle Lowry with a screen at the top of the key on the ensuing possession.
Foye—Nova’s 6-foot-4 pit bull—finally started pushing back.
Trailing 48-45 with 3 minutes to play, Foye scored on a driving layup, then hit two free throws to give the Wildcats their first lead, 49-48, with 2:18 to go.
He then took the ball at the top of the key, drove left and hit a twisting layup for a 51-48 lead, setting up a thrilling final six minutes befitting this buzzer-beater filled tournament.
“I knew if we lost this game, it was going to be my last game,” Foye said. “I wanted to keep playing. I just wanted to keep playing.”
Dudley hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 51 with 28.4 seconds to go, and Williams blocked Lowry’s jumper to send the game into overtime.
BC hadn’t lost an overtime game since Jan. 25, 2003, winning eight in a row since then. But Foye and the Wildcats squeaked this one out despite making 4-of-19 3-pointers.
Ray again couldn’t find his shot, going 3-for-15 after shooting 2-of-14 in last year’s one-point loss to North Carolina in the round of 16.
The Eagles’ two stars, Smith and Dudley, were equally quiet for most of the game.
Smith had 14 points and 14 rebounds, but was unable to find room to work underneath against Villanova’s overshadowed, but feisty, frontcourt. Dudley also managed 14 points after scoring a career-high 36 in their final meeting as Big East opponents last year.
Things couldn’t have gone much worse in the first 15 minutes for Villanova, which looked as if it would join Duke among the vanquished No. 1 seeds.
Boston College’s size forced Wright to ditch his unique four-guard lineup early in the game, and Villanova missed 13 of its first 17 shots.
But with Massimino and several members of the 1985 team in the crowd, the newest edition of the cardiac Cats didn’t disappoint.
“I was a little nervous, but that’s all right,” Massimino said while dancing to Villanova’s fight song. “We’ve been down before.”
Down, but not out.