'Nova escapes American

east regional

Third-seeded Wildcats rally from 14 down

Duke, UCLA, Texas advance

March 20, 2009|By From Sun news services

Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham each scored 25 points, and Villanova rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to beat upset-minded American, 80-67, in the first round of the NCAA tournament last night in Philadelphia.

The third-seeded Wildcats (27-7) needed a late 19-2 run to fend off the Patriot League champions. The 14th-seeded Eagles (24-8) sizzled from three-point range early and pushed Villanova to the brink. The loss ended the Eagles' 13-game winning streak.

"It wasn't that we took them lightly at all," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We expected that. I think we just in the end had bigger, stronger, athletes. But they were probably better prepared and executed a little better."

Garrison Carr scored 22 points, Derrick Mercer had 17 and Brian Gilmore 16 for American.

The Wildcats will play UCLA tomorrow.

For 30 minutes, American was poised to escape with the win in only the program's second NCAA tournament game. But Anderson and Cunningham, part of the winningest senior class in Villanova history, refused to let that happen. Anderson hit a three-pointer for a 58-55 lead with 6:21 left.

American, a 17-point underdog, built its lead on three-pointers, going 8-for-15 in the first half before fizzling the rest of the way.

The Eagles went to the free-throw line only five times, while Villanova made 26 of 29. Scottie Reynolds tied it at 55 for Villanova on a driving layup.

Carr nailed four three-pointers in the first half. Gilmore capped the half with three, sending American into the locker room with a 41-31 lead.

Duke 86, Binghamton 62: : Jon Scheyer scored 15 points to lead six Duke players in double figures, and the Blue Devils made Binghamton's first appearance in the NCAA tournament a quick one by routing the Bearcats in Greensboro, N.C. Lance Thomas added 14 points, and Gerald Henderson and Nolan Smith added 13 apiece for the Blue Devils (29-6), the No. 2 seed. They shot 49 percent, put the game away with a run to open the second half and advanced to a second-round matchup with seventh seed Texas tomorrow. D.J. Rivera scored 20 points for 15th seed Binghamton (23-9).

UCLA 65, Virginia Commonwealth 64: : A long way from home, UCLA barely kept alive its quest for a fourth straight trip to the Final Four. VCU's Eric Maynor missed a contested 17-footer at the buzzer, and the sixth-seeded Bruins held on for a one-point victory over the Rams in the opening round in Philadelphia. UCLA (26-8) advances to play Villanova tomorrow. Josh Shipp scored 16, Jrue Holiday had 13, and three other Bruins scored in double figures. Maynor led Virginia Commonwealth with 21. The Rams (24-10) were a popular pick to pull off a 6-11 upset - even President Barack Obama circled VCU in his bracket. But UCLA wasn't ready to go home.

Texas 76, Minnesota 62:: Guard A.J. Abrams hit eight three-pointers and scored 26 points to help Texas beat the Golden Gophers in the first round in Greensboro, N.C. "When he starts getting separation and gets his feet and his balance, yeah, he's one of those guys where you're surprised when he misses," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. Damion James added 18 points and nine rebounds for the seventh-seeded Longhorns (23-11), who hit 11 of 20 three-pointers overall to win their tournament opener for the fifth time in six seasons. Lawrence Westbrook scored 19 points for 10th seed Minnesota (22-11), which was making its first tournament appearance since 2005. It was also Minnesota's first NCAA bid under Tubby Smith, who left Kentucky two seasons ago to rebuild the struggling Big Ten program. The Gophers took an early 10-point lead. But Abrams finished 9-for-19 from the field and 8-for-15 from beyond the arc, one shy of his career high for made threes. His three-pointer just before the buzzer made it 39-35 at halftime. Abrams' eight threes were the most allowed by Minnesota all season. Dexter Pittman added 17 points and 11 rebounds for Texas, which shot 47 percent from the field. Damian Johnson added 13 points for the Gophers, who shot 41 percent from the field.

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