Villanova rallies to stun top-seeded Syracuse Orangemen squander 16-point advantage Big East tournament

March 09, 1991|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Correspondent

NEW YORK -- Going into The Big East tournament with four straight losses, Villanova was expected to exit early and quietly. But when Rollie Massimino -- the mastermind of March -- is coaching, anything can happen.

Massimino's magic came at the expense of top-seeded Syracuse yesterday, as the Wildcats came from a 16-point second-half deficit to defeat the fourth-ranked Orangemen, 70-68, and advance to today's semifinals.

The Wildcats will take on fourth-seeded Seton Hall, which got a shot at the buzzer by Oliver Taylor to beat fifth-seeded Pittsburgh, 70-69. In a later game, seventh-seeded Providence upset second-seeded St. John's, 72-64.

The winning points for Villanova (16-13) came on two free throws by Greg Woodard (18 points), who was fouled by Syracuse's Adrian Autry with 4.7 seconds left. The Orangemen (26-5) had a chance to win, but Dave Johnson missed a three-pointer just before the buzzer.

"We knew as a team coming in that we had a chance to win every game," said Woodard, who was at the center of the team's midcourt celebration after the game. "With March coming around, everybody got that feeling and it was just a snowball effect."

That effect looked as if it was going nowhere, as Villanova, which led by as many as 10 in the first half, fell behind 63-47 after a dunk by LeRon Ellis (15 points, 14 in the second half). But Ellis fouled out with 4 minutes, 37 seconds left, and with Big East Player of the Year Billy Owens (17 points, 22 rebounds) playing tentatively after picking up his fifth foul with 7:48 left, the Wildcats made their move.

Syracuse had a 68-65 lead with 1:52 left after Conrad McRae made two free throws. But Villanova's Chris Walker hit a three-pointer to tie the game with 84 seconds left, and, after Owens lost the ball while going up for a jumper, the Wildcats ran the clock down until Woodard was fouled and hit the game-winning free throws.

"It's a disappointing loss, but Villanova always plays us tough," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "We don't shoot real well from the outside, and Villanova plays the best zone in the league. They beat us twice this year and once last year, so you had to figure they had a chance."

The loss by Syracuse, last year's Big East tournament champion, was the team's first in the quarterfinals since 1982 and probably cost the Orangemen a chance at the top seed in the East in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament. The Wildcats, who are 6-8 against top 25 teams this season, kept alive their slim tournament hopes.

"I'm proud of the kids because they played well against an outstanding basketball team," Massimino said. "All we're concerned about right now is winning the tournament, and whether they look at us, that's up to the selection committee."

In the first quarterfinal, Seton Hall's Taylor scored the winning points on a driving layup at the buzzer.

The Panthers had taken a 69-68 lead when Brian Shorter tipped in a Bobby Martin miss with 10 seconds left. But after a timeout, Taylor, who had missed a short jumper before Shorter's tip, drove from the lane and scored with his left hand as time expired.

Anthony Avent scored 21 to lead the Pirates. Shorter led the Pirates with 18.

"Our kids kept their composure, especially in the second half," Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlisimo said. "I liked our shot selection and effort in the second half. And Oliver made a great play at the end."

Seton Hall has defeated Villanova in both meetings this season.

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Villanova 70, Syracuse, 68 VILLANOVA (70) -- Bain 2-10 3-3 8, L.Miller 4-10 0-2 9, Dowdell 1-4 9, Walker 1-5 4-5 7, Woodard 6-15 4-7 18, Byrd 2-10 0-2 4, Bryson 2-3 2-4 6, Mumford 1-3 0-0 3, D.Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Pelle 1-1 4-5 6. Totals 23-69 18-32 70.

SYRACUSE (68) -- Johnson 3-13 5-8 11, Owens 7-19 3-7 17, Ellis 4-11 7-9 15, Autry 2-8 3-5 7, Edwards 6-15 2-3 16, McCrae 0-1 2-2 2, Hopkins 0-0 0-0 0, McCorkle 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-68 22-34 68.

Halftime--Syracuse 36, Villanova 35. 3-point goals--Villanova 6-18 (Woodard 2-7, Mumford 1-1, Bain 1-2, L.Miller 1-2, Walker 1-5, D.Miller 0-1), Syracuse 2-15 (Edwards 2-5, Owens 0-1, McCorkle 0-1, Autry 0-3, Johnson 0-5). Fouled out--Ellis. Rebounds--Villanova 54 (L.Miller 10), Syracuse 54 (Owens 22). Assists--Villanova 12 (Dowdell, Walker, Mumford 3), Syracuse 11 Johnson 4). Total fouls--Villanova 24, Syracuse 25. A--19,081.

3!

Seton Hall 70, Pittsburgh 69 PITTSBURGH (69) -- Jones 3-4 0-0 6, Shorter 6-10 6-6 18, Martin 6-6 12, Matthews 3-8 9-11 17, Miller 1-6 0-0 2, Porter 1-5 0-0 3, Morningstar 1-3 0-0 2, Shareef 0-0 0-0 0, McNeal 1-3 5-6 7, Morgan 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 20-48 26-29 69.

SETON HALL (70) -- Karnishovas 3-3 0-0 7, Winchester 5-5 1-3 11, Avent 8-11 5-7 21, Dehere 4-15 2-2 14, Taylor 4-7 2-5 10, Walker 3-5 1-1 7, Caver 0-2 0-0 0, Barnea 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 27-49 11-19 70.

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