The ball bounced right to Omar Samhan. He threw it up, and raised his fist in the air as time ran out, announcing himself as king of the day. It was an appropriate ending: Villanova never could handle the Gaels' big man, and couldn't make anything happen with the ball late.
St. Mary's became the first team in the Sweet Sixteen by declawing the Wildcats, 75-68. Samhan was a beast inside for the Gaels, pouring in 32 points on 13-of-16 shooting, and Mickey McConnell's deadeye shooting, including a beautiful rainbow off glass with about a minute left, provided dagger stabs to go with the big man's sledgehammer blows. St. Mary's felt like the favorite from early on in the first half, and controlled the tempo except for a stretch of scrappiness from Jay Wright's team.
That stretch, which Kyle Whelliston termed "five minutes of playground junk," was in reality more like ten minutes of short jumpers and lay-ups in the second half that erased 45-35 and 51-44 leads for the Gaels. But each of the three times 'Nova took the lead were answered by Samhan on the next St. Mary's possession, and Matthew Dellavedova's three with 4:31 remaining put the Gaels up for good.
For Villanova, it's a disappointing end to a season that began with the core of a 2009 Final Four participant racing out to a 20-1 start, and concluded with a fade faster than alum Brian Westbrook's.
For St. Mary's, it's a win that gives them some cachet as a Cinderella -- though with Samhan's brute strength and some great outside shooting, their credentials belie the underdog tag.â†µ
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