Villanova Advances To Elite Eight
March 27, 2009
BOSTON (AP)--Dante Cunningham scored 14 points with 11 rebounds and third-seeded Villanova beat Duke for the first time in more than 50 years, taking advantage of the Blue Devils' poor shooting to win 77-54 Thursday night and advance to the NCAA regional final.
The Wildcats (29-7) will play Big East rival Pittsburgh (31-4), the top seed in the East, on Saturday for a trip to the Final Four.
Duke (30-7), which spent a week at No. 1 in the nation earlier this season, failed to reach the round of eight for the fifth consecutive year.
Kyle Singler scored 15 and Jon Scheyer had 13 for the second-seeded Blue Devils. But Scheyer and Gerald Henderson combined to make just four of 32 attempts as Duke shot a season-low 26.7 percent from the floor.
Villanova was playing on the tournament's second weekend for the fourth time in five years, but Jay Wright's Wildcats have yet to reach the Final Four. But the fans could sense another chance, chanting "We want Pitt!" when Corey Stokes hit a 3-pointer with 2:27 left to give Villanova a 71-50 lead--its biggest of the game.
Villanova, which set a school record with its 29th win, beat Pitt 67-57 in their regular-season meeting at Philadelphia on Jan. 28 when the Panthers were the No. 3 team in the country.
But rankings and seeds have meant little to the Wildcats: No team in tournament history has won more games against higher seeds. The Wildcats are 14-12 as a lower seed since 1979, including their 1985 run to the national championship as a No. 8 seed--the lowest ever to win it all.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, already the winningest coach in tournament history, became the all-time leader in NCAA games coached with 93--one more than Dean Smith, though the current format with six full rounds has only been in place since 1985. But it became obvious early on that he wouldn't be padding his lead.
After jumping to a 5-0 lead, Duke gave up the next 11 points and never led again. The Blue Devils trailed 26-23 and hit the first basket of the second half, but Villanova scored 12 of the next 13.
Worse, the 3-point shooting that got Duke past Binghamton and Texas abandoned the Blue Devils against the Wildcats. After making 45 percent and 50 percent of their 3s in the first two tournament games, Duke hit three of their first 18 attempts and 5-of-27 overall.
The Blue Devils had beaten Villanova five straight times since the Wildcats' last victory in 1958.
Scottie Reynolds scored 16 and Reggie Redding had 11 points and nine rebounds as Villanova won the rebounding battle 49-34.