Reynolds’ strong second half helps Villanova take top-5 showdown at WVU
Scottie Reynolds didn’t have any memorable games against West Virginia — until he got hot against the Mountaineers in the second half Monday night.
The senior guard scored 19 of his 21 points in the final 13 minutes and Villanova (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) held off West Virginia (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) 82-75.In the season’s first matchup of teams ranked in the top five, the Wildcats (21-2, 10-1) rebounded from a blowout loss at Georgetown (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) on Saturday to pull into a first-place tie with Syracuse (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) in the Big East.”You have guys asking where the toughest place to play is, and hands down for me, it’s West Virginia,” said Reynolds, who had averaged nine points in three previous games against the Mountaineers, including two losses in Morgantown.”I remember a lot of years here,” he said. “It feels good to get one under our belt. It feels good and to do it the way we did it, it feels even better.”Villanova shot 57 percent (29 of 51) from the field and its guard-oriented lineup outrebounded the Mountaineers 38-30.
Leading scorer Da’Sean Butler had his worst performance in three weeks and that haunted West Virginia (19-4, 8-3), which couldn’t overcome an 11-point halftime deficit and saw its six-game winning streak snapped. The Mountaineers will have to wait until Friday night at Pittsburgh (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) to try for their sixth straight 20-win season.”You can’t expect Da’ to get 30 points every game and carry us,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “Our other guys are going to have to do things.”Butler had scored a season-high 33 points as West Virginia rallied from 16 points down in the second half to beat St. John’s 79-60 on Saturday. Last season he torched Villanova for a career-high 43 points at home, but the Wildcats’ Reggie Redding limited him to 13 points on 2-of-12 shooting Monday night.”We were really concerned about him,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “In the St. John’s game they were down the same way and he just got it going and once he got it going, it was over. Reggie Redding did a really good job on him.”Butler didn’t get his first points until a 3-pointer with 8:40 left in the first half and was held without a field goal in the second half.”We didn’t really compete as well as we should’ve, especially considering the situation and how much the game meant for us,” Butler said. “Overall we weren’t focused as far as taking advantage of easy shots. It would’ve been a different situation if we did.”This was West Virginia’s first home game since fans threw objects onto the court last Wednesday, one of which struck Pittsburgh assistant coach Tom Herrion under his right eye. WVU President Jim Clements apologized to the University of Pittsburgh and declared that “boorish and unruly behavior by our fans will not be tolerated.”Students behaved themselves this time. They scrapped a derogatory chant typically done during opponent introductions. Extra security workers surrounded the yellow-shirted student section and fans were asked to report hooligans by text message just in case.Corey Fisher added 17 points and Antonio Pena had 10 for Villanova.Darryl Bryant led five Mountaineers in double figures with 15 points. Devin Ebanks had 13 points, Mitchell finished with 12 and Kevin Jones added 11.West Virginia couldn’t feed off the capacity crowd, leading only in the game’s opening minutes. The Mountaineers picked up their defensive intensity after halftime, holding Villanova without a field goal for the first 6 minutes. But West Virginia did little on offense to get going.Villanova held West Virginia under 50 percent shooting from the field for the 11th straight game. West Virginia was just 7 of 27 from 3-point range and shot poorly from the free-throw line, finishing 18 of 32.”We really played as a unit defensively,” Wright said. “We really covered for each other and played unselfishly. When we had to switch, we switched. We got down against Georgetown and lost our composure and started scrambling. Tonight, we really kept good composure defensively.”Every time West Virginia was poised to make a run, the 6-foot-2 Reynolds was there to answer against a West Virginia lineup that at times averaged 6-7.”There were times when I was the smallest guy on the floor,” he said.Reynolds didn’t get a specific pep talk or instructions from Wright about taking over. The opportunities just came to him.”He wanted everyone to continue to be aggressive,” Reynolds said. “All five guys needed to be aggressive so they couldn’t play on one person or two.”Limited to two points in the first half, Reynolds hit a 3-pointer and converted two three-point plays over a 3-minute span to push Villanova’s lead to 58-47 with 10:28 remaining.Casey Mitchell gave West Virginia a flicker of hope with a long 3-pointer and free throw with 2 minutes left to bring the Mountaineers within 74-69, but Villanova converted six of eight free throws in the final minute and made 19 of 22 overall.