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Villanova rallies from 21 points down to edge LSU

Dec 7, 2007 - 6:25 AM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Villanova's first lead of the game came at the right time.

Dante Cunningham scored the go-ahead basket with 5.9 seconds left as 21st-ranked Villanova rallied in impressive fashion to edge Louisiana State, 68-67, on Thursday.

Freshmen Malcolm Grant scored all 18 of his points during the final seven minutes and Cunningham chipped in 16 and 12 rebounds as the Wildcats overcame a 21-point, second-half deficit.

LSU was enjoying an impressive 54-33 advantage behind the efforts of Anthony Randolph with just over nine minutes left before things started to come apart.

"They had us," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We were down. We lost our confidence, but we stuck with it."

Grant's 3-pointer capped a 12-6 run at the 6:06 mark to slice the deficit to 60-45. The Wildcats (6-1) hit seven foul shots during the stretch.

Things got even worse for the Tigers (5-3) as Randolph picked up his fifth foul with four minutes remaining and was forced to watch from the bench. He finished with 12 points.

The 6-1 Grant took full advantage, scoring 11 of Villanova's next 14 points to draw within 66-63 with 1:33 remaining.

"I was able to hit some shots," Grant said. "I just wanted to help the team in any way."

"If you ever saw (Grant) play in high school, you saw that a lot," Wright said. "Guys call him 'Microwave.'"

After LSU's Chris Johnson split a pair of free throws, Grant sank all three shots after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt by Garrett Temple in front of the Wildcats' bench to make it a one-point game with 1:05 to go.

Temple tried to redeem himself but misfired from long range to open the door for Villanova, which wanted the ball in Grant's hands for the final shot.

Following a timeout, Grant drove the lane and put up a tough shot that came up short. But Cunningham was able to put in the missed attempt with 5.9 seconds left.

"We practice game situations," Cunningham said. "I just crashed (the boards) and got the loose ball in my hands. We have to learn to play like the last eight minutes for the whole 40 minutes."

The Tigers still had one last chance to pull it out, but Marcus Thornton 's 3-point attempt hit the side of the rim just as the buzzer sounded.

"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."

Thornton finished with 15 points and 13 boards and Terry Martin scored 14 points for LSU, which blocked 14 shots but was outscored, 35-13, over the final 8 1/2 minutes.

LSU jumped to an early 14-4 lead over the first eight minutes. The Wildcats shot 33 percent (11-of-33) from the field to climb within 35-24 at intermission.

Villanova's leading scorer, Scottie Reynolds was held in check with just four points on 1-of-8 shooting.

"(LSU) did a great job on our top scorers," Wright said. "The fact is that we did not play well. A guy (Grant) came in and took us on his back."

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    LSU vs. Villanova(21)Dec 7 6:42 AM

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    LSU 35 32 67
    VILLANOVA (21) 24 44 68 FINAL

    Dec 6 11:42 PM
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    LSU vs. Villanova(21)Dec 6 11:37 PM
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    LSU vs. Villanova(21)Dec 6 11:34 PM

    NCAA BB LSU 35

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    LSU vs. Villanova(21)Dec 6 10:18 PM