PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Jay Wright pretty much said it all season, that his Villanova Wildcats weren't quite as good as people thought when they were 20-1, and not as bad as people thought when they struggled late in the season.
After the season ended yesterday at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in a 75-68 upset loss to St. Mary's (Calif.) in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Scottie Reynolds was asked if he had agreed with his coach.
"Us seniors take what coach Wright says and apply it to ourselves," Reynolds said after suffering through a second straight miserable shooting performance from the field.
"We put our careers and everything we have into him. So what he says, we go with regardless. Whether it's right or wrong, we know in the end, everything will be right.
"We can't have everybody have their own way of playing basketball. It has to be everybody on the same page, and he's the guy we look to for that. We assessed it and we started going in the direction he wanted us to be going in, and we just ran out of time. Time was not on our side this year."
The Wildcats (25-8) spent every week of the season in the top 10 of the AP poll. They began the season ranked No. 5 and got as high as second. Expectations were running rampant on a team that had traveled to the Sweet 16 and the Final Four in the two previous years.
But after struggling mightily just to advance past a No. 15 seed in Robert Morris, the Wildcats saw their season come to a close against a No. 10, albeit a very good 10.
"We didn't finish the way we'd like to finish," senior cocaptain Reggie Redding said. "Everybody wants to win the national championship. Everybody wants to be Big East champions. But we never quit on each other.
"No matter what happened with anybody, we stuck together. We fought through it. We never quit on each other. The coaches never gave up on us. Nobody in the program ever gave up on us. I love these guys. I love playing with them and I'm going to miss them."
Samhan the man
Omar Samhan is one cool customer. He smiles easily. He obviously enjoys the competition. At one point in yesterday's game, he was fouled while making a shot, then turned to the crowd and put his finger to his lips to shush the 'Nova supporters.
The 6-foot-11 fifth-year senior from San Ramon, Calif., also is composed on the court. He made 13 of 16 shots from the field and scored 32 points, one short of his career high, in the Gaels' victory.
It turns out the guy isn't lacking for confidence, either. He revealed after the game that his mother already had a airline ticket for Houston, the site of Friday's South Regional semifinal game against No. 3 Baylor.
"She was like, 'Yeah, just win two games, I'll book the ticket,' " Samhan said. "My mom has had a flight to Houston since Selection Sunday. I'm glad we'll be there, too, because she was going either way. That's where we get our confidence from, my mom."
Wright said Villanova tried every type of defense imaginable against Samhan, and complimented him for "reading every defensive scheme perfectly."
"We tried every person," he said. "We tried doubling him. We tried fronting him. He's a great player, but you've got to give their team credit. They found him every way. Whatever we did, they had an answer for.
"We trapped him on the baseline one time, he spun baseline and beat the trap. We fronted him and they couldn't get him the ball at the end of the clock, so they just threw it up and he went and got it."
Of the Wildcats' three worst shooting performances of the season, two of them came in their short stay in the NCAAs. They shot a season-worst 35.3 percent against Robert Morris and 36.2 percent yesterday. Their worst shooting game entering the tournament was 35.8 percent against George Mason, their third game of the season. . . . The Gaels' starting guards, Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova, played all 40 minutes without a break. The pair combined for five three-point baskets and 29 points. McConnell went the entire game without a turnover. . . . Maalik Wayns, the 'Nova freshman from Roman Catholic, had 10 points in 18 minutes, the most in both categories since he scored 10 points in 21 minutes Jan. 27 against Notre Dame.
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano
at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org.