Villanova Wildcats guard Scottie Reynolds made just 2-of-15 shots, including 1-of-8 from three-point range.
But he was given the star treatment by the refs, leading to 16 free-throw attempts—many of which coming late to help defeat Robert Morris.
Behind by four and needing a three-pointer to stay alive, Robert Morris guard Karon Abraham dribbled downcourt composed, hoisted a 30-footer over two Villanova defenders, and drilled it with ten seconds remaining in overtime.
But the Colonials would lose—as a desperation attempt at the buzzer ricocheted off the rim—but this three-pointer by Abraham exemplified their resiliency and determination.
They would not fold. And they should have won.
They frustrated the No. 2-seeded Wilcats to no end, getting production from everyone while playing as good a defense as I have seen. They trapped to force turnovers, took Reynolds out of his rhythm early, and played off their defense to run a solid offense.
Leading for a better part of the second half, the Colonials grabbed an eight-point lead, 55-47, with just more than four minutes remaining in regulation—having scored six straight to nab such an advantage.
They would only score three points the rest of the second half. But despite their untimely cold stretch, if not for a couple of terrible calls in Villanova’s favor, a victory would have been theirs.
Reynolds, a high-profile name with a reputation referees had to be well aware of, was struggling mightily—with just one field goal in 13 attempts entering the closing minutes. The jumper wasn’t working, so he tried to drive to the hoop. The Colonials wouldn’t let him, but on two of his drives into the lane, two ticky-tacky calls were whistled, giving him four unwarranted free points.
Still, despite Reynolds scoring seven straight points from the free-throw line for the Wildcats, the Colonials forced overtime as the lanky Dallas Green partially blocked Maurice Sutton’s dunk attempt as the buzzer sounded.
Villanova scored the first six points of overtime. Usually, when the significant underdog loses the lead, it has a tough time recovering.
Robert Morris was no such team.
Even after Reynolds hit a off-balance three-pointer with two seconds on the shot clock, giving the Wildcats a six-point lead, 67-61, with a little more than a minute left, the Colonials were unfazed.
And somehow, following a lay-up by guard Mezie Mwiwge, they remained composed after another dreadful call was made. The deficit was four with just another minute left when it appeared Green had tied up Corey Stokes at midcourt.
The possession arrow was pointed to Robert Morris, so the Colonials would have the ball. One official called a jump ball, but he was overruled by another, who had whistled Green for a foul. Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice was irate—and rightfully so.
Rice, the son of Portland Trail Blazers announcer Mike Rice, wasn’t calm—but his team was. Josiah Whitehead hit a pair of free throws and Nwigwe connected on another lay-up to pull Robert Morris within one.
With 30 seconds remaining, the shot clock off, and the Wildcats in possession, the Colonials needed to foul, but Villanova escaped a few attempts and passed upcourt to a wide-open Mouphtaou Yarou.
The 6′10″ Yarou drove to the rim, but he was met by the 5′9″, 150-pound Abraham, who came out of nowhere wrap him up, preventing a sure lay-up.
Yarou made both free throws, but the effort by Abraham exemplified the Colonials' overall play against the No. 2 seed.
The Wildcats didn’t play with this kind of effort.
They just took advantage of Robert Morris’ 20 turnovers and the referees' bias toward Reynolds.
The Colonials, spelling defeat in heartbreaking fashion, will not be remembered by the national media. The headlines will read, “Villanova Survives Scare” and “Villanova Escapes.”
Announcers Bill Raftery and Verne Lundquist sang their praises for Robert Morris, though.
No game is a sure win. And the Colonials did everything they could to pull off what would have been considered an upset.
As Raftery said at the conclusion, “They only lost on the scoreboard.”
So true. And they shouldn’t have lost at all.