Cardinals Win Big East Showdown
Jan. 10, 2009
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Less than a month into the conference season the Big East is living up to its current status and its history.
In another physical-as-always Big East game between two of its record nine teams ranked in the Top 25, Louisville found a way to survive for a 61-60 victory over Villanova on Saturday.
Terrence Williams scored on a drive with 7.4 seconds left to give the 23rd-ranked Cardinals the lead, then the 18th-ranked Wildcats missed two shots down low in the final seconds.
The ending wasn't pretty, neither was either team's offense all game, but it's the kind of physical matchup the Big East has produced often over the years.
"A typical Big East game," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "It would have been a shame for us to lose because we've worked so hard the last two weeks."
Earl Clark had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Louisville (11-3, 2-0), which won its third straight after losing two of three. The Cardinals' league wins were both on the road and now they get to return home for two games - No. 13 Notre Dame on Monday and No. 1 Pittsburgh on Jan. 17.
"I've looked forward to this year more than any other," Pitino said. "You'll never see 12, 13 teams as tough as this. It's special, I'll tell you that. I'm getting the hell out of here after this year, I'm telling you that."
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he has talked to his team often about the conference.
"I've told the kids 'You're going to be part of history playing in this league. You'll talk about this the rest of your life,"' he said.
Dante Cunningham had 21 points for the Wildcats (13-3, 1-2), who only led twice in the game, the last time at 60-59 on a free throw by Cunningham with 27 seconds left.
The Cardinals ran down the clock until Williams, who had 10 points and 14 rebounds, scored on a drive among three Villanova players.
Antonio Pena of Villanova was fouled with 4.9 seconds left and he missed both free throws as the Wildcats went 6-for-14 from the line over the final 8 1/2 minutes.
The second miss went out of bounds off Clark so Villanova got the ball under the basket with 4 seconds left. Reggie Redding threw a lob pass into Cunningham, who missed from in close, then grabbed the rebound but he missed from just off to the side as the buzzer sounded.
"Redding made a great pass," Cunningham said. "Clark got a piece of it and it just rimmed out."
Pitino said Clark made a "great play" by going at Cunningham without fouling him.
"We've had some bad luck. Today, we had good luck," Pitino said.
Villanova felt exactly the opposite.
"Right now this game kills you," Wright said. "We'll wake up tomorrow, watch the tape and we'll feel good about ourselves. If all the games are like this I'll be happy as long as we get our share."
The poor free throw shooting was out of the ordinary for Villanova, which entered the game leading the Big East at 72.2 percent and off having made its last 18 in a row in an overtime win over Seton Hall on Tuesday.
Pena, who came in shooting 69.6 percent from the line, made one of six free throws over the final 4:43, including missing three of four in the last 47 seconds.
"Even if you're a good free throw shooting team, you'll have one of those games," Wright said. "It wasn't meant to be.
"They did a great job pressuring us and disturbing our flow."
The teams came in ranked in the top five in the conference in 3-point shooting. Villanova, fourth at 36.3 percent, finished 2-for-8 from behind the arc, while Louisville, which was shooting 35.5 coming in, was 3-for-25 with the starting backcourt of Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith combining to go 1-for-11.
"They're one of the best in the conference with Syracuse in field goal defense so they can take the 3 away," Wright said. "They not only took it away but they prevented us from going inside to Dante."
Louisville held an 11-point lead in each half, going up 47-36 with 13:12 to go on a jumper by Clark.
Villanova used a 13-3 run to get its first lead of the game, 58-57, on a side jumper with Cunningham with 3:11 left.
"At one timeout, Clark said, 'Coach, I'm getting killed out there,"' Pitino said. "I said 'Is this your first year in the Big East? Welcome to the Big East.' This is what the Big East is all about. I'm sure we were fouling too."
Scottie Reynolds, coming off a 40-point outing against Seton Hall, had 11 points for Villanova.