Without star point guard Maalik Wayns and shooting guard James Bell, the Villanova Wildcats (11-15, 4-10 Big East) knew this game against #25 Notre Dame was going to be a tough one. Those two combine to average about 24 of the Wildcats’ 72.6 points per game. Because of Wayns and Bell’s absences, Villanova’s starting lineup was slightly altered. Wayns was replaced by freshman Ty Johnson at the point, and Bell was replaced by junior center Maurice Sutton.
Early in the game, the Wildcats were down by 5, and it looked like Notre Dame was just going to pull away and crush their weaker conference foe. However, Villanova took the lead, and the ‘Cats started to pull away. At halftime, Villanova lead 39 – 23, one of their biggest halftime leads this entire season.
All ‘Nova fans know that the Cats are notorious for not being able to hold leads. With around 11 minutes left in the game, Villanova was up 13. They looked like they were going to seal the deal and close out the game, but play-by-play, Notre Dame was slimming the deficit.
With 3 minutes to go in the game, ‘Nova had a lead of 7 points. Within a 2 minute span, however, Notre Dame went on an 11-point run to take the lead, 60 – 56. After 2 Dominic Cheek free throws, ‘Nova was within 2. The Fighting Irish took the ball down the court, and came up empty after a Jerian Grant missed 3-pointer. Jayvaughn Pinkston grabbed the rebound, and a timeout was called by Jay Wright with just 8 seconds to play.The ‘Nova coach quickly drew up a play and sent his team back onto the court.
The ball was inbounded, and point guard Ty Johnson brought the ball up the court, drove into the lane, and shot a floater that hit the glass and bounced off the rim. Maurice Sutton jumped up, snagged the rebound, and made a much needed layup with .9 seconds to go to send the game into overtime. They were still in it, at 60-60.
In the overtime period, a Notre Dame’s barrage of 3 pointers was too much for the inexperienced Wildcats. Both Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton each had 3’s in overtime. Grant made one, and Connaughton made two as the Irish outscored ‘Nova 14-10 in the extra frame. All of Pat Connaughton’s 21 points came off of 3-pointers. He shot 7-12 from behind the arc. Among the Fighting Irish, Jack Cooley was the leading performer finishing with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the 74-70 victory.
Jayvaughn Pinkston’s 24 points, including four 3-pointers, was not enough for Villanova to emerge victorious, neither was Maurice Sutton’s 12 points, 10 rebounds, and a game-tying layup. Villanova looks to snap a two-game skid on Monday against the Connecticut Huskies at home. This game can be seen at 7 PM on ESPN.