Reynolds gets No. 15 Villanova past Saint Joseph’s
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP)—Scottie Reynolds ends every Villanova practice by shooting free throws that simulate the score and the clock like the game is on the line.
The Wildcats call the drill, “Win the game.”
That’s exactly what Reynolds did when Villanova needed him in that spot when it counted.
Reynolds scored 18 points and sank the winning free throws with 4.8 seconds left to lift No. 15 Villanova to a 59-56 win over Saint Joseph’s on Thursday night.
“That’s the greatest thing you can give a player is the ball in your hands at the end of the game,” Reynolds said. “It’s the best thing you can give a player.”
Reynolds was fouled on a driving layup down the lane to put the Wildcats (9-1) in position for the victory over their city rival. The 87-percent free-throw shooter made the first and swished the second for a 57-56 lead.
“With that little amount of time, we’re always going to put it in his hands,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
Dante Cunningham stole in the in-bounds pass, was fouled and clinched the win with two free throws, sending the Villanova student section into a frenzy. Cunningham scored 14 points.
Villanova trailed most of the second half and appeared on the brink of losing for the second straight season to the Hawks (4-5). Ahmad Nivins, who scored 16 points, hit two free throws with 44 seconds left to give Saint Joseph’s a 56-55 lead.
Playing only two nights after No. 6 Texas beat them 67-58 at Madison Square Garden, the Wildcats took over from there and won their second city series game of the season.
“There was a period there we looked a little heavy legged,” Wright said, “but by the end, we gutted it out with our depth.”
Darrin Govens had the Hawks hopeful of an upset with a hot hand from 3-point range, going 6-for-11 from outside the arc and leading them with 18 points.
“There’s still some doubt in our guys on whether or not they can play at the highest level and hopefully this 40 minutes will convince them and it doesn’t have to be just me chirping at them,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.
While the rivalry between the schools has remained the most heated in the city among the six Division I teams, the games have become quite lopsided over the past few years. The average margin of victory entering Thursday was 17.1 points over the last seven games, including a 22-point win by Saint Joseph’s last season.
The Saint Joseph’s-Villanova series is nicknamed the Holy War and this was one of the more thrilling endings in a matchup that dates back to 1921 and they played the first Big 5 game in 1955. All that was missing was the Palestra.
“That’s what everybody pays for. That’s what everybody remembers of a Big 5 game,” Wright said. “That was a classic. As a fan, I loved them. As a coach, I don’t love the classics.”
The long-time city rivals went on a 3-point spree that got the staid Pavilion crowd rocking. Tasheed Carr hit the first 3 for the Hawks, Dwayne Anderson answered with one, then Govens nailed his fifth 3 of the game for a 47-44 lead.
After a timeout and empty possessions for teams, Govens got the Hawks going again with yet another 3-pointer and a six-point lead with 5:44 left.
Reggie Redding hit two jumpers in about 90 seconds, one that pulled the Wildcats within one and the last one that finally put them ahead 53-52 with 2:55 left. That let the Villanova students start a “We can’t hear you!” chant across the court to their suddenly subdued Saint Joe’s counterparts.
The Hawks unraveled in the second half, missing 13 of 20 shots from the floor and committing eight turnovers. Their sensational 3-point shooting cooled, and the Wildcats got some easy baskets in the open court.
“They turned it up, but we knew they were going to turn it up,” Martelli said.
The Wildcats did not attempt a free throw in the first and half and the Hawks went 2-for-2. Then it became a battle from the line down the stretch to decide this one.
Nivins made two from the line and the Wildcats took a 54-53 1:25 left only for Redding to make two at the 59-second mark for a 55-54 lead.
The Wildcats finished 13 of 15 from the line and needed them all to improve to 42-24 in the series.
Govens hit 35 percent of his 3s coming into the game and he connected on back-to-back shots to give the Hawks a 17-13 lead. His fourth 3 of the half stretched the lead to nine and Saint Joseph’s took a 35-26 lead into halftime.
“Govens made shots and that makes us look a lot better,” Martelli said.