Villanova's Mental Toughness and Experience Pays Off in New York

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2009

NEW YORK—Last year's Villanova team—or even an earlier version of the 2009 Wildcats—may not have been able to get a wide open layup at the buzzer pictured above.

But with five upper-classmen on the floor, coach Jay Wright had a group of players that knew how to go the length of the floor and get a bucket in less than 10 seconds without having a timeout to regroup.

Marquette's Jerel McNeal missed a shot with about 12 seconds left allowing 'Nova one last chance to score down 75-74. Wright's Wildcats were ready for the task.

"The stuff we do in practice prepared us for this moment," said Reggie Redding who made the pass to the wide open Dwayne Anderson under the basket. Redding drove the lane with a handful of ticks on the clock remaining where he stopped after drawing two defenders and found Anderson near the hoop for the easy basket.

That wasn't the original plan.

"We couldn't get Scottie [Reynolds] the ball," Wright said.

"Reggie was trying to get it to Scottie and they wouldn't let us get it to him. Reggie made the play."

Redding says he realized what he had to do.

"I knew time was running down. I drove to make a lay-up or get fouled. When I saw Dwayne [Anderson] open, it was like a smack in the face. He got a higher percentage shot than I ever could," Redding chuckled.

Marquette's Wes Matthews didn't give Villanova as much credit after the game.

"They really had no idea what was going on," Matthews said.

"They were just trying to push and hope for something to happen and we let it happen. We gave it up and they took advantage."

"We stepped uphill to help penetration," said Golden Eagle coach Buzz Williams.

"They went behind us. I think they scored five baskets on that throughout the game."

Could a freshman or a sophomore have made the play Redding, a junior, made? Maybe, but with a court full of upper-classmen, Wright has a team he can rely on to make a play. The 'Nova coach is also gaining more confidence in his younger players.

"You go with your older guys down the stretch, but I'm gaining a lot more confidence in those three," Wright said.

"Last year we weren't as confident," Redding said.

"We've worked on defense and we are smarter. That's the difference. We still have the same players and the same talent."

Same talent, same players, more confidence and a higher basketball IQ for a team that went to the Sweet 16 in 2008. A Villanova win Friday in the semifinals against Louisville might mean the world of college basketball should start talking about a quartet instead of a trio of potential Final Four teams representing the Big East.