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Saint Mary’s Sends Villanova Home Early

PROVIDENCE - There will be no Final Four for Villanova this season, not even a Sweet 16. The second-seeded Wildcats were ushered out of the NCAA tournament Saturday by No. 10 Saint Mary's, beaten 75-68 by a team with enough talent to do more damage next weekend.

"Whatever we talk about here that we didn't do well, I want it to be very clear that a lot of it comes from them doing a great job at both ends of the floor," said Villanova coach Jay Wright of the Gaels. "They made all the plays down the stretch."

Saint Mary's center Omar Samhan scored 32 points in 32 minutes against the Wildcats, hitting 13 of 16 from the field. That came after a 29-point effort from the 6-11 senior in a first-round upset of seventh-seeded Richmond.

"I thought we did a good job in every other area defensively but (Samhan) made every play out of every defensive scheme we tried," Wright said. "They can play with anybody in the Big East, there's no doubt. They're a very, very good team."

Villanova star Scottie Reynolds ended his college career on a somber note. He was 2-for-11 from the field and scored only eight points against the Gaels. This after scoring 20 points in an overtime win against Robert Morris in the opening round but shooting 2-for-15 from the field. He finishes 22 shy of the school career mark.

"It's a sad day for me because this guy has really been the face of our program," Wright said. "He's impacted everybody on our team. He's everything you want your sons to be, what you want all your players to be."

The game was tied at 17 when a Samhan jumper ignited a 16-4 surge that helped Saint Mary's (28-5) to a 38-31 halftime lead. The margin was still seven points when a Maalik Wayns' steal set off an 8-0 Villanova burst that gave them a 53-51 advantage with 9:37 remaining.

The game was tied at 65 when Gael guard Mickey McConnell banked in a long three-pointer with 1:15 to play. The Wildcats couldn't score and McConnell added two free throws with 40 seconds left to seal the upset.

"I just kind of threw it up and it was a little left," McConnell said. "But the backboard was there, so we'll take it."

Wright said: "The play of the game was the banked three. We had a great defensive possession and McConnell just hit a great shot. Then we didn't score the next possession and that was the game."

Corey Stokes led Villanova with 15 points, hitting 5-of-9 and three times from behind the three-point line. Wayns had 10 points off the bench, who lost to a double-digit seed for the first time since 1995.

"They did what we expected - they went to their man Samhan, reversed the ball and he made plays from out of the post," Wayns said.

After advancing to last year's semifinals, beginning this season 20-1 and climbing to No. 2 in the national polls, the Wildcats closed by losing six of their last nine games.

"It was a challenge all year," Wright said. "There were not only a lot of expectations but a lot of praise put on this team that we hadn't really earned. But they really stuck together and I thought we were playing hard at the end, probably the hardest tonight that we played all year.

"But we understand the expectations were much higher for this team and we have to take what comes with that. That's part of being an athlete these days, it's part of being part of a team at this level."

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