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A classic in the making 03.28.09 at 8:40 pm ET
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Jermaine Dixon was taken to the locker room within the first minute of the second half as two Villanova players came down on his legs scrambling for a loose ball. Dixon lay on the floor for a couple of minutes as was treated by Pittsburgh training staff. He returned to the bench with 15 minutes remaining but did not re-enter the game.

Levance Fields hit an early three in the first two minutes of the second half.

It’s been a busy night for legendary college hoops writer Dick ‘Hoops’ Weiss. In the first half, he was bowled over by a Pittsburgh player who spill his drink. Then Sam Young early in the second half ran into press row and guess who had a first-hand look? Young split Weiss and New York Post scribe Lenn Robbins.

That play caused Weiss to move to the second row and led to the most spectacular play of the game. The ball was saved in bounds and wound up at Villanova’s end. Corey Fisher collected it on the ground and fed Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds pump-faked and made a reverse lay-up high off the glass.

Dante Cunningham picked up his third foul with 14:10 remaining in the second half.

The two teams are trading blows in what is turning into a classic Big East backyard brawl.

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Pittsburgh 34, Villanova 32 Halftime 03.28.09 at 8:06 pm ET
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After trailing for most of the first half, two free throws by Sam Young with 2.6 seconds remaining gave Pittsburgh a two-point lead at halftime in the East Regional final.

The play that led to the two free throws was symbolic of the topsy-turvy play between the two Big East powers.

Sam Young pump-faked Nova’s Dwayne Anderson into the air and then slipped underneath him, causing Anderson to do a spectacular, if not dangerous flip onto the hardwood. Anderson got up none the worse for wear.

Pittsburgh ended the first half on a 26-14 run to take the lead at the break.

Villanova is shooting 34 percent (11-for-32) while Pittsburgh has warmed up to 42 percent at 10-for-24.

Both teams have players with foul issues. Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair picked up an ill-advised second foul when he came out to screen Scottie Reynolds with under two minutes remaining. Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark both have two fouls for Villanova.

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Nova out early, Pitt bounces back 03.28.09 at 7:51 pm ET
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As was the case with Xavier, Pittsburgh fell behind early, trailing 18-8. Villanova found its range from three-point territory as Shane Clark hit a pair of consecutive shots from beyond the arc.

But Pittsburgh went on a 12-4 run, capped off by a steal by big man DeJuan Blair near mid-court and a ramble to the basket. He made the layup and then a free throw, to close the Nova lead to, 22-20.

The key moment of the game so far occured when Nova’s Dante Cunningham picked up his second foul with seven minutes remaining in the first half, leaving them without someone to guard Blair.

Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds is playing with a dark wrap on his right wrist and he was shaking it as he drove to the basket for a layup late in the first half and landed on it.

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Early thoughts 03.28.09 at 7:23 pm ET
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Villanova jumped out to a quick 10-3 lead with 15:18 left in the first. And when Scottie Reynolds hit a floater in the lane, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon was forced to call a timeout, even though the official timeout benchmark of 16:00 had passed.

The crowd again is again heavily dominated by Villanova supporters. We told you about Ray Ventrone in the crowd.  Rollie Massimino, mastermind of the 66-64 upset of Georgetown in 1985 is sitting in the first row of seats behind press/radio row.

Both teams are showing the early jitters. Villanova made just three of thier first 10 shots. Pittsburgh converted just two of their first seven. DeJuan Blair picked up an early foul when he tackled Reggie Redding after a steal, and like in the Xavier game, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon took him out until the next whistle.

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V for Villanova, V for Ventrone 03.28.09 at 6:38 pm ET
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BOSTON – Tonight’s East Regional showdown between Villanova and Pittsburgh figures to be a battle that will sometimes more resemble a football game than a tussle on the hardwood.

And there’s someone in attendance who can more than relate with the gridiron aspect. Patriots cornerback and special teams heavy hitter Ray Ventrone is sitting among the Villanova faithful. And for good reason. He graduated from the Philadelphia Main Line institution in 2005 and was signed as an undrafted free agent.

The irony in his presence at TD Banknorth Garden tonight is that he was born and raised in Pittsburgh before heading off to Philly to play college football.

Ventrone said he is also looking forward to opening day at Fenway Park on April 6 and indicated he is looking forward to taking in several Red Sox games this season.

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East Regional final thoughts-Villanova 03.28.09 at 5:22 pm ET
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BOSTON – Villanova set a new school record for single season victories when it captured its 29th win on Thursday over Duke. The previous record of 28 was set in 2005-06 when current seniors Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Frank Tchuisi.

The win over Duke marked the first time in school history that Villanova won consecutive NCAA tournament games by at least 20 points. Villanova beat UCLA, 89-69, in round 2 and beat Duke, 77-54, on Thursday.

Villanova is now 10-4 in NCAA tournament play under coach Jay Wright over the last five seasons. Three of the four losses have come at the hands of the eventual national champion. 2005-North Carolina. 2006-Florida and 2008-Kansas.

The senior class has earned the most wins of any class in school history. They are 101-36 entering tonight’s game.

Villanova is playing a fellow Big East school in NCAA tournament play for the first time since beating Georgetown, 66-64 for the national title in 1985.

Villanova beat Pittsburgh, 67-57, in the only meeting between the two teams this season. It was the last college game ever at Philadelphia’s Spectrum.

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East Regional final thoughts-Pittsburgh 03.28.09 at 5:15 pm ET
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BOSTON – As No. 1 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Villanova plan to square off beginning at 7:05 p.m. at the TD Banknorth Garden, here are some final thoughts to keep in mind. First, Pittsburgh.

Pitt is advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1974, when they lost to eventual national champion North Carolina State, starring David Thompson.

Only two schools have advanced to more Sweet Sixteens than Pittsburgh in the last eight years. (Duke and Kansas, 6).

The last time Pittsburgh advanced to the Final Four was in 1941. Pitt beat North Carolina, 26-22, before losing to Wisconsin, 36-30, in the Final Four at Madison, Wisc.

The win over Xavier gave Pittsburgh 31, tying a school record set back in 2003-04. That was the first year under current coach Jamie Dixon.

Probable lineups for Pitt tonight: Tyrell Biggs and Sam Young at F, DeJuan Blair C and Jermaine Dixon and Levance Fields G.

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