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Nova wrap up

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 [1] tournament for the first since beating Georgetown, 66-64, in the ’85 title game.

Duke’s tandem of Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson [2] 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.

Q. You guys played so well against UCLA. Was tonight’s effort better than that, even?
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: I don’t know. We’ve got to talk to Coach later on tonight (laughter). I think every game we can learn from. There’s definitely points in this game that we can learn from and get better and go into Pitt and kind of get better from that.
Like Coach said when we were in the locker room, this team can continue to get better and that’s the beauty of this team. We’re not at our peak, and like he just said, we can continue to get better. And that’s it, we can continue to get better.

Q. Dante, given how tough the league was all year, do you think it’s poetic justice that you had the Big East final and the Region here?
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: I wasn’t — really didn’t look at the schedule that far at the beginning of the tournament. Coach handed us a bracket of four teams that was in our area. And we just tried to win that bracket. We just keep moving on. We looked up, Pitt was in that area, and so that’s something that we kind of looked forward to. We know that they’re going to come out tough, we’ve played them before. We won the first one, but we’re not going to take them lightly.

Q. Scottie, can you give an update on your wrist? How it happened and your pain now, what’s going on with it?
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: No, that’s a happy smile. This is just precautionary, just ice everywhere. I’m old. The wrap. It’s good, actually. I mean, when I had the ball in my hands it felt good. I’ll be ready to go Saturday.

Q. For any of the players, what got into you guys on defense? You really ratcheted it up the last two games.
DANTE CUNNINGHAM: Honestly, I think it’s our individual, just personally taking it upon ourselves to keep a person in front of you, not allowing them to drive to the hole, diving for loose balls. And then as everyone sees that, they’re doing it themselves, we’re trying to bring it more and more together as a team. That chemistry is just getting better.
REGGIE REDDING: I think it’s the commitment to defense that we have now and us playing hard and together. And even though we made some mistakes, we can count on our teammates to be there for us. And I think it’s more togetherness.
SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: One of the things that Coach said kind of around January, he said if the team is going to be great, when you guys really become good and great is when you take pride and it comes from within on defense. We all knew we can score. We knew we could put points on the board, but it’s going to be those times where we’re not going to be able to score and we have to do it on the defensive end. And I think everyone has taken pride on that and likes to come back on defense and try to get stops.

Q. Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer, quite possibly the worst shooting percentages. How were you able to contain them defensively?
COACH WRIGHT: We did not want to play those guys one-on-one. We wanted to always give help on actually the three of them. We didn’t do as good a job on Singler, but those guys, they’re really good.
What we did a great job is I don’t think Gerald got a shot off one-on-one. The three he hit was the one where one-on-one. They’re just so good individually offensively, we always wanted to have a second guy coming at him.

Q. I’m sure you were confident in your ability in this team to advance beyond tonight, but is there any surprise that the final margin of victory is 23?
COACH WRIGHT: Definitely. Now that we’ve played it, I think kind of everything fell into place for us. When we got a lead to start the second half, they had to press. And we made the plays. And then they had to shoot 3’s. And it’s easier to guard someone when you know they have to shoot 3’s. If they’re mixing it up on you, you — what makes Duke so difficult to play is when they mix in the 3’s and the drives, you don’t know what they’re going to do.
It played into our hand. Coach K plays to win, not keep it close. And when you do, it can turn out this way.