Saturday, March 22, 2008

VILLANOVA 75, CLEMSON 65

Clemson came out and looked like the team that clawed its way to the ACC final building an early 18 point lead. Then they reverted back to the team that had Coach Oliver Purnell throwing guys out of practice for a lack of intensity.

When Scottie Reynolds banked in a three as the shot clock expired to give the Wildcats their first lead, the collective Clemson-air seemed to rush out of the building. Game over.

Reynolds scored 21 points, Corey Fisher added 17 and 12th-seeded Villanova gave this NCAA tournament pod its fourth upset in as many games with a 75-69 victory over No. 5 seed Clemson in the first round of the Midwest Region on Friday night.

It was the perfect ending for a crazy day in Tampa, the bracket-busting town that should be called Upset City after Friday's opening round. It was the first site in NCAA history to have four 12 or lower seeds win. In fact, no other place had even had two in one day.

First, No. 12 seed Western Kentucky knocked off fifth-seeded Drake in overtime with a desperation 26-footer at the buzzer. Then, 13th-seeded San Diego upended No. 4 seed Connecticut, hitting a long jumper with 1.2 seconds left in overtime. And No. 13 seed Siena led from the start to send fourth-seeded Vanderbilt home earlier than expected.

The Tigers nearly folded, looking every bit like a team that hadn't been in the NCAA tournament in 10 years…or, not to be mean-spirited, but looking like Clemson all too often looks.

But Villanova helped them get back in the game.

Clemson trailed 64-57 with 3:44 remaining, but Terrence Oglesby made five consecutive free throws -- three after he was fouled on a 3-pointer and two more after Villanova coach Jay Wright was whistled for a technical.

Clemson's Demontez Stitt tied it at 66 with two more free throws with 1:55 to go, but the Wildcats retook the lead by making 9-of-10 from the stripe over the final 1:37.

Stitt led the Tigers with 14 points. K.C. Rivers Jr. added 12, and Oglesby finished with 11.

Clemson said tournament experience was overrated, and players pointed to their run in last year's NIT as something that would help them.

It didn’t.

Antonio Pena #0 of the Villanova Wildcats grabs a rebound in front of Cliff Hammonds #25 of the Clemson Tigers during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

James Mays #40 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after fouling out of the game while taking on the Villanova Wildcats during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the St. Pete Times Forum March 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida. Villanova defeated Clemson 75-69. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

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