PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- When he was asked if he was prepared to take an offbeat question Friday, Saint Mary's 6-11 senior center Omar Samhan replied, ``Well, I'm an offbeat guy.''
The question: ``Do they introduce you at home games to Metallica's `Enter Sandman'? You know, as in `Enter Samhan?' ''
The answer: ``No, they don't. But that's a good idea. I like it. We should see if we can get it done.''
There was no such introducion for Samhan before today's second-round matchup against second-seeded Villanova. Samhan, who led No. 10 Saint Mary's to a 80-71 victory over No. 7 seed Richmond Thursday with 29 points and 12 rebounds, wore a solemn expression on his face as he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammates for the playing of the national anthem.
It looked very much like Samhan was ready to get down to business.
It was good to see Dave Gavitt, considered the godfather of Big East basketball and one of the more influential members of the NCAA Tournament selection committee, back on his feet _ albeit with the assistance of a walker _ today at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Gavitt, it was written in the Providence Journal, was instrumental in helping Providence land coveted first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games. Today's second-round games drew a crowd of 11,271, which was announced as a sellout.
For the record, Villanova senior guard Scottie Reynolds and junior guard Corey Fisher, both of whom were benched at the start of the Wildcat's first-round 73-70 overtime victory against Robert Morris, were penciled in as starters for today's game against the Gaels.
Reynolds and Fisher were benched as part of what Villanova coach Jay Wright called ``a minor teaching point'' for a lapse in his starting backcourt's game preparation against the 15th-seeded Colonials.
We're almost halfway through the first half and still there's no sign of Antonio Pena. The 6-8 junior forward from Brooklyn who ranks as Villanova's rebounding leader didn't start for only the second time this season. We can only presume it wasn't another ``teaching point'' by Wright, but a lack of production on Pena's part in the first round against Robert Morris.
Pena finally entered the game with 10:13 to go in the first half and made his first basket of the game with 8:32 to.
With 6:44, Scottie Reynolds has yet to make a basket after missing his first five shots, reprising his 2-for-15 effort against Robert Morris in which he missed his first five field goals of the first half before making his first basket with 19:34 left in regulation.
Reynolds, in an interesting bit of symmetry, made his first basket today on his sixth field goal attempt, a breakaway layup off a steal, pulling Villanova within 27-21.
St. Mary's is on a 16-4 run, which has helped them snap a 17-17 tie and break open a 12-point lead, 33-21, with 3:29 to go. But back-to-back treys by Corey Stokes has pulled Villanova within 33-27 with 2:04 to go.
The Gaels lead at halftime, 38-31, having hit on 14 of 28 first-half shots while outrebounding Villanova, 20-12. Samhan led St. Mary's with 15 points and 6 rebounds, despite collecting two personal fouls. Villanova, which hardly led in its first-round OT victory against Robert Morris, led exactly for 1 minute 16 seconds in the first half against the Gaels.
Samhan induced Mouphtaou Yarou to commit his third personal, which enabled the St. Mary's senior center to go to the line for a pair of foul shots that gave the Gaels a 10-point lead, 45-35, with 16:07 to go.
Nova has come back to pull within 45-40 on a Maalik Wayns driving layup and a Regging Redding trey. Maalik Wayns has caught fire, igniting a 9-4 run with a driving layup and a breakaway dunk off a steal to help Villanova tie it, 51-51, on Antonio Pena's foul-inducing transition basket with 10:07 to go.
After Samhan tied it, 61-61, by making a pair of foul shots (courtesy of Antonio Pena's second personal) for his 31st and 32d points of the game, Matthew Dellavedova buried a huge trey for a 64-61 lead after keeping his dribble alive from his knees a la Curley Neal with 4:29 to go.
The Gaels now are clinging to a 64-63 lead with 3:09 to go.
After Corey Fisher hit a pair of foul shots (courtesy of Samhan's third personal) to give Villanova a 65-65 tie 1:35 to go, Mickey McConnell wowed the sellout crowd with a banked 3-pointer, giving the Gaels a 68-65 lead with 1:16 left.
Samhan blocked Redding underneath with about 49 seconds left, McConnell came up with the loose-ball rebound and drew a foul from Redding to go to the line for a pair of foul shots that expanded St. Mary's lead to 70-65 with 40 seconds left.
The Gaels, who won in the NCAA tourney for the second time in three days _ and 51 years, held on for the 75-68 victory to advance to the South Regional semifinals in Houston, where they will make their first ever Sweet Sixteen appearance against the winner of today's Old Dominon-Baylor matchup.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell