Pitt Holds Off Villanova
Even with only seven players, Villanova nearly pulled off an improbable upset at Philadelphia.
The suspension-strapped Wildcats had only half their roster in uniform Sunday and still gave No. 7 Pittsburgh a battle before losing, 56-54.
It helped that the Panthers missed their last seven free throws, including five by senior point guard Brandin Knight.
Villanova suspended 12 players Saturday for allegedly making unauthorized telephone calls -- the latest in a string of recent college basketball scandals, including ones at Georgia, Fresno State and St. Bonaventure.
“Everyone is disappointed, but all we had left was to play for pride,” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said. “It was eerie. It really wasn’t until late in the second half that I forgot about everything and got into the game.”
The Wildcats had the ball and a chance to take the lead with a three-point basket in the final seconds. However, after an errant inbounds pass by Randy Foye, Villanova couldn’t get a shot before the buzzer.
Leading scorers Gary Buchanan and Ricky Wright, along with Andreas Bloch, Chris Charles, Jason Fraser, Lou Ruskey and Andrew Sullivan, watched the game in street clothes from the bench. They stood with their teammates during the singing of the national anthem and joined in during huddles.
Foye, Marcus Austin, Allan Ray, Derrick Snowden and Curtis Sumpter suited up despite being among the 12 players affected.
Foye and Ray each had 15 points and Sumpter added 14 for Villanova, 15-14 overall and 8-8 in the Big East Conference, which has lost four in a row.
Knight had 15 points and Jaron Brown added 14 for Pittsburgh (23-4, 13-3), which begins this week’s Big East tournament on a six-game winning streak.
The Wildcats trailed almost the entire game, but cut the deficit to 46-37 on a three-pointer by Ray with 4:13 left. Following an offensive foul on Knight, Sumpter made a reverse layup to get Villanova within 46-39.
A driving layup by Brown and a free throw by Knight put Pitt ahead, 55-45, with 1:15 left. But Ray made five straight free throws to cut it to 55-50 with 52 seconds left.
After a free throw by Ontario Lett, Snowden was fouled on a three-point attempt and made two free throws.
Carl Krauser then missed two free throws and Ray made two to cut it to 56-54. Knight missed two more free throws, and the Wildcats had a chance to take the lead on a three-pointer.
However, in a wild sequence, Snowden’s pass was stolen by Julius Page, who passed to Brown. Foye blocked Brown’s driving layup, but Ray fouled Knight just before Snowden stole his pass. Knight again missed both free throws and Sumpter got the rebound with 2.4 seconds left.
No. 6 Kansas 79, Missouri 74 -- The Jayhawks needed two improbable long shots to wrap up its second straight Big 12 championship. Aaron Miles and Kirk Hinrich both barely beat the shot clock with three-point baskets from well beyond the line in the final 1:20.
Hinrich connected for the game-winner with 23 seconds to go, a fadeaway from about 25 feet to break a 74-74 tie after Michael Lee rebounded an airball by Nick Collison.
Kansas (24-6, 14-2) denied Missouri its first unbeaten home schedule since 1993-94; the Tigers finished 14-1 in the Hearnes Center.
The Jayhawks also won in consecutive years at Missouri for the first time since 1992-93 despite committing 19 turnovers.
No. 12 Syracuse 83, Rutgers 74 -- Freshman Carmelo Anthony had 30 points, 14 rebounds and six assists to help the Orangemen complete their first unbeaten season in the Carrier Dome.
The game, not televised locally, attracted a Carrier Dome-record crowd of 33,071, also an NCAA on-campus record.
Syracuse (23-4, 13-3 Big East) finished 17-0 at home, its first unbeaten season since the dome opened in 1980, and will be the seeded No. 1 in this week’s Big East tournament.
The loss ended a dismal season for Rutgers (12-16, 4-12), which finished last in the Big East’s West Division.
Virginia 80, No. 13 Maryland 78 -- The Cavaliers (15-14, 6-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) ended a seven-game losing streak dramatically at Charlottesville, Va., and swept the Terrapins to avoid playing in the No. 8 vs. No. 9 play-in game in the ACC tournament.
Maryland (19-8, 11-5) had a chance to tie with 3.7 seconds left, but Steve Blake’s desperate heave from the corner was off the mark and Ryan Randle’s rebound and putback bounced on the rim before dropping off.
Drew Nicholas had 27 points for Maryland, which despite the loss will be seeded second in the tournament because Duke lost to North Carolina.
No. 14 Illinois 84, Minnesota 60 -- The Illini (21-6, 11-5 Big Ten) won their 17th straight home game and beat the Golden Gophers (16-11, 8-8) for the 10th consecutive time.
Brian Cook, one of six Illini seniors playing their last home game, needed 19 points to stay ahead of Purdue’s Willie Deane and win the Big Ten scoring title. He scored 22 points and won with a 20.1 average.
No. 19 Creighton 70, Wichita State 69 -- The Bluejays (28-4) escaped with a one-point win for the second straight day in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament at St. Louis.
Kyle Korver made a three-point shot with 1:32 left to give Creighton the lead and Larry House made a dunk with nine seconds left to clinch the semifinal victory.
Randy Burns had 21 points to lead the Shockers (18-11).
Creighton will meet top-seeded Southern Illinois (24-5) for the title tonight. The Salukis beat Southwest Missouri State, 64-55, in the other semifinal.
No. 25 Georgia 60, South Carolina 55 -- Jarvis Hayes and Steve Thomas combined for all 10 points in overtime as the Bulldogs (19-8, 11-5 Southeastern Conference) won in Columbia, S.C., for only the second time in 12 games since the Gamecocks (12-15, 5-11) joined the SEC in 1991.
The Bulldogs trailed, 48-37, with 9:49 to go in regulation, but held South Carolina to only three baskets over the final 14:49.