Midway through the second half last night at the Pavilion, Villanova senior guard Mike Nardi found freshman guard Scottie Reynolds for a three-pointer. The players at opposite ends of their college careers backpedaled down the court, pointing at one another on their way to a 74-51 Big East Conference win over Rutgers on Senior Night.
Nardi was grateful that the program is being left in Reynolds' increasingly steady hands and growing leadership. Reynolds was grateful for a year of tutelage under Nardi.
"Plays like that, when you can have that connection with a younger guy on the floor, he's getting that experience," Nardi said.
While the night was dedicated to the last Pavilion appearance for Villanova's four seniors - Ross Condon, Curtis Sumpter, Will Sheridan and Nardi - their freshman star stole the show.
It looks as if Reynolds finally got Jay's Wright's constant message about not being overly deferential to the seniors.
Reynolds scored 20 of his game-high 25 points in the first half for Villanova (19-9, 7-7 Big East). By halftime, Reynolds alone outscored Rutgers (10-18, 3-12), which trailed by 45-18.
He was 8 for 14 from the floor, including 6 for 10 on three-pointers, and had a career-high six rebounds.
"I'm just taking it all in, and down the road, hopefully, I'll be what [the seniors] are to the program," Reynolds said.
With every game, Reynolds' campaign for Big East rookie of the year looks stronger.
"When you play with Mike Nardi, you're going to develop a level of confidence," said Rutgers coach Fred Hill, who, as a former Villanova assistant, helped recruit Nardi.
Hill was honored before the game with a signed basketball and plaque as a welcome-back gift. He assisted Jay Wright at Villanova before assisting at Rutgers last season and taking over as head coach this year.
The celebration did not last long for Hill, but the party never ended for Villanova.
The seniors walked down the bleachers through the student section at the start of the game and threw sneakers to their fans. They met with their parents on the court and were escorted to a picture with Wright.
When Sumpter picked up his fifth foul with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining, he left with 13 points, eight rebounds and a standing ovation.
Senior forward Will Sheridan checked out a few minutes later with four points. Nardi, who was nothing but smiles in the final minutes, scored 11 points and delivered seven assists.
The most appreciated senior yesterday was walk-on Condon.
The crowd went wild every time he touched the ball in his six minutes of play. He went 0 for 4, but his two free throws and two steals were enough for his devoted fans.