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Nova wrap up

03.27.09 at 12:34 pm ET
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Before looking ahead to a Big East coronation in the East Regional final between No. 1 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Villanova, let’s take one more look back on Thursday night.

Some quick notes about Villanova-Duke:

Villanova is back to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2006 and for the fourth time since 1985, also the last year they won it all. Nova beat North Carolina in their title run in ’85, lost to Oklahoma in ’88 and lost to eventual national champ Florida three years ago.

Villanova is playing a fellow Big East school in the NCAA tournament for the first since beating Georgetown, 66-64, in the ’85 title game.

Duke’s tandem of Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson made just 4-of-32 shots from the floor.

Duke made just 16-of-60 shots on the night, a 26.7 percentage.

Villanova – 77
Duke – 54

Here were the comments from Villanova coach Jay Wright and selected players postgame:

COACH WRIGHT: Well, a great game for us. We are — we’re getting better this late in the year, which is really exciting. It’s fun to coach this group. We have so much respect for Duke, the program, those players. We know all those guys. We really respect how they compete and they’re a great program. It was a great win against them.
What’s really exciting for our staff is that these guys just keep improving. We actually had two or three practices before this where we can see guys improving and our team improving, and that’s exciting.

Q. This is for any one of the guys. This is a neutral site game, but it seemed like your fans came up in force. Did it feel like a home game at times for you guys?
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: You know, we like to call it Nova Nation, it’s everywhere. It was great to hear everyone behind us yelling and screaming.
REGGIE REDDING: I think it was a real advantage for us and they came out to Boston and just showed us what kind of university Villanova is.
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: Yeah, they did a great job, even though we were down, staying in the game, and we appreciate their support.

Q. For any of the players, first half, 26 points, kind of a half-court game. The second half you opened it up a little bit. What changed for you guys?
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: We honestly just kept the same intensity, brought it up a little bit more in the second half. Honestly, just the same thing we came into the game with. We just tightened it up a little bit more and just continued to get stops on the defensive end.
REGGIE REDDING: I think in the second half we got the ball moving a little bit more. Every guy on the floor was trying to make plays. And the first half it was just like we were passing, passing, not doing anything, really. In the second half we tried to make plays. Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing in

03.27.09 at 12:12 am ET
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Villanova is closing in on its second Elite Eight appearance in fourth years. They lost to eventual national champion Florida in 2006. Villanova would play fellow Big East rival Pittsburgh on Saturday for a chance to go to Detroit and the Final Four.

Villanova hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1985 when they won it all. Pittsburgh has never made the trip.

By the way, Gerald Henderson drilled his first field goal, a three with 5:20 remaining to bring Duke to within 64-49 but Villanova maintained control and answered when Dante Cunningham hit a layup.

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Ice cold

03.26.09 at 11:38 pm ET
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It’s no secret that Duke is a significantly better team when they hit their threes.

Duke started out 2-for-13 from beyond the arc before Greg Paulus came off the bench to drill his first three point attempt. It was Paulus’ first action of the game and the three came with over 15 minutes remaining in the second half.

On the Gerald Henderson watch, he is now 0-for-7 from the floor, with just two first half free throws to show for his efforts. He picked up his fourth personal fould with 13:53 remaining in the second half and went immediately to the bench.

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Catching up… Villanova 26, Duke 23 Halftime

03.26.09 at 11:18 pm ET
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Having returned from the press conference following Pittsburgh’s win over Xavier, some notes to pass along about Villanova and Duke.

First, Villanova made just 10 of 29 shots and lead, 26-23 at the break.

Duke shot 7-for-25 in the first half for 28 percent.

Mike Krzyzewski surpassed Dean Smith by coaching in his 94th career NCAA game.

Villanova is outrebounding Duke, 22-17.

Gerald Henderson was 0-for-5 in the first half and missed his first shot of the second half.

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Pittsburgh 60, Xavier 55

03.26.09 at 9:46 pm ET
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Levance Fields stole the show in the final minute for the No. 1 seed Pittsburgh Panthers as he drained a desperation three from straightaway as the shot clock expired and then followed that up with a steal and a length-of-the-court drive and layup as the Panthers prevailed over No. 4 Xavier, 60-55.

Pittsburgh outscored Xavier 33-18 in the second half.

The Panthers advance to face the winner of the Villanova-Duke game in the nightcap. The East Regional championship will be played on Saturday at TD Banknorth Garden.

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Fielding a prayer

03.26.09 at 9:32 pm ET
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Levance Fields, with the shot clock winding down, just drilled a high-arcing three-point shot with 47.1 seconds remaining to give Pittsburgh the lead, 55-54. Fields then stole a pass and went the length of the court for an easy layup.

Pittsburgh leads 57-54, with 23.9 remaining.

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Big Break

03.26.09 at 9:16 pm ET
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A big break just went Xavier’s way and in a close game, it may be the difference.

B.J. Raymond took a long jumper from the right wing with four seconds remaining on the shot clock. The shot was off the mark but Derrick Brown collected the ball and put it in. The shot clock was at zero but the basket was ruled good.

The video board was showing the CBS replay with a telestrator circling the shot clock at zero but they faded to black. The basket with just under seven minutes put Xavier up, 47-46.

Jermaine Dixon moments ago missed a layup when it appeared he was going to style on a dunk, but Levance Fields was Johnny on the Spot and put back the miss for an easy two Panther points.

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