Nova's Crazy Comeback

By Josh Herwitt - December 07, 2007

When I first started looking at schedules for the 2007-08 college basketball season, one of the games that intrigued me for one reason or another was Villanova's Thursday night meeting with LSU at the Wachovia Center.

The game was part of the Big East/SEC Invitational that began this year to rival the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the inaugural Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series that just finished up last week with No. 4 Texas' win over UCLA in Westwood, a game that yours truly was fortunate to take in from press row.

But if the Big East/SEC Invitational was looking for a game to hang its hat on, it was Thursday night's contest between the Tigers and Wildcats.

After all, LSU led by as many as 21 points with eight minutes remaining before blowing the lead and allowing the 25th-ranked Wildcats to steal a 68-67 victory at the Wachovia Center.

And to top it all off, Villanova didn't lead until its final possession, one that saw Dante Cunningham hit the boards and put back a Malcolm Grant shot from the right side of the floor with 5.4 ticks left on the clock.

"That was unbelievable," Villanova coach Jay Wright said afterward. "We were terrible and LSU deserved to win the game, but we played with great heart and of course Malcolm was incredible. I can't ever remember winning like that. They had us."

The Wildcats, for one, didn't get out to a great start due to some careless play and cold shooting, committing four turnovers in the first four minutes and missing 15 of 20 shots.

"A game like this shows our depth and our potential," Cunningham remarked. "We have a lot to learn. Obviously we need to come out and play like we played the last eight minutes for the whole 40 minutes of the game."

Still, while LSU certainly had its fair share of opportunities to win the ball game and put Villanova away early in the second half, Grant became the ringleader for Wright's team, spurring the comeback with seven points in 14 seconds and shooting 3-for-7 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free throw line to finish with a game-high 18 points in only 16 minutes of action.

"He makes plays," Wright said about his 6-foot freshman guard. "He is an incredible offensive player. He needs to learn how to play defense and he will. He's working at it, but that was an amazing individual performance."

"We didn't play the way Coach wanted us to, but we got the win and that's the important thing," Grant added. "

The Tigers, on the other hand, outshot Villanova, finishing with a 42.3-percent clip from the floor, and even dominated on the defensive end with 14 blocks. Marcus Thorton led the way with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Terry Martin had four threes in the early going to record 14 points.

But it wasn't enough in the end, as the Wildcats began knocking down shots from three-point land with Grant making 3-of-4 in the second half.

"I've never, in my life, in 32 years of coaching, had a team do that," LSU coach John Brady said. "I hurt for our players.

"We had a chance to beat a nationally-ranked team on their floor and let it slip away. We didn't do the things that were necessary. We don't know how to win yet."

And though his team didn't play great by any means, Wright still knows that a win is a win, and with Big East play less than a month away now, every game is an important learning experience no matter what the result turns out to be.

"Everything the team goes through now is in our collective consciousness," he offered. "Hopefully we won't be down 21 points again with eight minutes left but if we are we know we have come back from that. You can talk about it in the huddle all you want but until you do it the guys don't really believe it."

A game like this shows our depth and our potential. We have a lot to learn. Obviously we need to come out and play like we played the last eight minutes for the whole 40 minutes of the game.

Bullock Bounces From Denver

After starting in every game for Denver over the last year, sophomore guard Tyler Bullock left school Friday to return to his family.

"Tyler has decided to leave the University of Denver and return home to be closer with his family," Denver head coach Joe Scott said in a release. "We respect that he is focusing on his family and support his decision."

During his 35-game career, the 6-foot-1 Lincoln, Neb., native was a solid contributor for the Pioneers, averaging 10.1 points and 2.7 rebounds while collecting 68 assists, 38 steals and 13 blocks.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 09:38 AM on December 07, 2007

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