NCAA basketball: Saint Mary's stuns Villanova to advance

-A A +A
By The Staff

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Omar Samhan was an unstoppable Gael force.

His career isn't over yet — and neither is Saint Mary's NCAA tournament run as the Gaels are improbably headed to the round of 16.

Samhan played the game of his career on basketball's biggest stage, finishing with 32 points and seven rebounds to lead 10th-seeded Saint Mary's past Villanova 75-68 on Saturday and on to Houston for the South Regional's Sweet 16.

Mickey McConnell stopped and fired an arcing 25-footer that banked high off the glass to give Saint Mary's a 68-65 lead with 1:15 left.

Samhan used a two-handed block to turn back Reggie Redding and McConnell made both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it 70-65.

The soldout crowd was well behind the Gaels (28-5).

The Wildcats (25-8) made an early exit a year after they played in the Final Four. They started 20-1 and collapsed at the end.

Scottie Reynolds, who put Villanova in the Final Four last season with a last-second basket against Pittsburgh, was a big reason why the Wildcats are heading home early. He missed 9 of 11 shots and scored eight points after a dud game in the tournament opener.

The Gaels danced around for the crowd in celebration. Samhan mugged for the fans and tossed a loose ball in the air. He high-fived a ball boy and they embraced for the biggest win in the program's history.

Samhan played perhaps the best all-around game of anyone in the tournament so far. His 32 points where one shy of his career high and he made 13 of 16 shots.

He frustrated the Wildcats until late in the second half

That's when the Wildcats started doing what they do best — run and score on the fastbreak. They rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit with their transition game to tie the score at 51 on Maalik Wayns' perfect pass through the defense to Antonio Pena for a layup. Pena made a free throw for the tie, and Corey Fisher followed with a basket the next time down for a 53-51 Villanova lead.

Neither team gave much the rest of the way.

Saint Mary's took a three-point lead when — bam! — the slumping Reynolds nailed his first 3-pointer of the game.

Matthew Dellavedova made an acrobatic play as he dribbled, tripped, retained his dribble, spun around Fisher and hit a 3. Wayns — the Philly freshman seemingly built with a turbo-charged engine — sped to the basket for a layup and sliced it to 64-63 with 3:29 left.

The score was frozen until Clint Steindl made one of two free throws to make it 65-63. Wayns tied it on two free throws.

That's when McConnell fired one that was felt from America to Australia — the Gaels boast four Aussies on their roster — and had the Gaels pointed toward the Sweet 16.