Rich Hofmann, Daily News Sports Columnist
Somehow, some way, Villanova is going to the Final Four.
It was a classic game. It was a game that will be talked about for as long as they talk about college basketball in Philadelphia. It was a tight, physical, brutal wonderful game – and Scottie Reynolds won it with a driving layup with 0.5 seconds left.
The final score was Villanova 78, Pittsburgh 76. And when everyone got done holding their breath at the end, when a Levance Fields 75-footer at the buzzer crashed off of the backboard and away, the Wildcats erupted to celebrate the school’s first Final Four appearance since 1985.
It is so hard to describe how tough and good this game was, and how it would have felt if the Wildcats had come up short. It was that good. It was that difficult.
Villanova had a 76-72 lead with 20 seconds left and then held on, through emotions and misplays and Pitt’s quiet, physical dignity. And in the end, it was Reynolds who drove the lane, taking the inbounds pass with 5.5 seconds left and heading for the rim, crashing, careening, making the layup.
The whole thing really went very much according to form in the first half. Most people who looked at the game had one question: how would Villanova be able to get to the rim? They had beaten UCLA and Duke just that way, relentlessly attacking in the paint. But this would be different, with DeJuan Blair and the boys. How would the Wildcats adjust?
What they did was play on the perimeter. They built an early lead, 22-12, raining down jumpers, with Shane Clark bombing in three threes to lead the way. But the old adage is true, that if you live on the outside, you can die that way, too. The Wildcats went cold and the Panthers began to methodically pound the ball inside. Ironically/coincidentally, it was a Levance Fields three-pointer with 1:54 left in the half that brought Pitt back into a 30-30 tie, and fields waved to the Pitt section of the crowd for vocal encouragement as he ran back on defense.
Pitt led at halftime, 34-32. And in their locker room, you could only wonder what Jay Wright and his staff were plotting to counteract the trend. Clark was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and the rest of the team was 0-for-11.
They were better in the second half at getting inside. In the final minutes, Corey Fisher was fearless on his drives.
And in the end, it was a play at the rim by Reynolds that won it.
Final Four. Incredible