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Reynolds helps Villanova escape with win vs. St. Joseph's

Dec 12, 2008 - 5:39 AM VILLANOVA, Pennsylvania (Ticker) -- Scottie Reynolds had 18 points and eight assists as 12th-ranked Villanova dodged the upset with a 59-56 win over city rival Saint Joseph's on Thursday.

Dante Cunningham added 14 points as the Wildcats (9-1) overcame a nine-point halftime deficit. Reynolds and Cunningham each knocked down a pair of free throws in the final five seconds to secure the win over the "Big 5" opponent.

"This is what everybody paid for and what everyone remembers about the Big 5," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "This was a classic. As a fan I love them, but as a coach I don't love the classics. Saint Joseph's played great. They came into this building and they played better than us. They played a better game. They deserved it but we gutted it out."

St. Joseph's (4-5) was in search of its second consecutive win over its fellow Philadelphia school and appeared poised to do so for much of the second half.

After taking the lead early in the first half, the Hawks did not trail until Reggie Redding sank a jumper with 3:01 left in the second half to put the Wildcats ahead, 53-52.

Redding answered a pair of free throws by Ahmad Nivins with two of his own with 60 seconds left, but Nivins went back to the line and made both attempts to put St. Joe's ahead, 56-55, with 44 seconds left.

"Reggie was awesome," Wright said. "He does everything for us whenever we need him and wherever we need him. We have used him at the point, at the two and at the three. He is probably the smartest player when he is in the game and he is gutty."

Darrin Govens missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Villanova the ball back with 16 seconds left and Reynolds drew a foul on a drive down the lane with 4.8 ticks left.

The junior guard calmly drained both. Cunningham intercepted the ensuing inbound pass and added two more from the line for the final margin.

"At the end of practice we have a `Win the Game' drill where everybody goes to the line," Reynolds said. "If you miss a shot it is minus two points and if you make it then it is plus one. We play until we win the game. It is the greatest feeling you can give a player to put the ball in their hands at the end of the game."

Govens sank six 3-pointers for 18 points to lead the Hawks, while Nivins added 16 points and eight rebounds.

"At halftime we went back in the locker room and the message was just to get the job done and not make any excuses," Reynolds said. "We just had to play Villanova basketball, leave it all out there and whatever happens, happens. We were aggressive defensively and I think that's what turned the game around."

The Wildcats cut into the halftime deficit thanks to a 9-0 run midway through the half. Trailing, 41-32, Villanova held St. Joe's scoreless for over five minutes to get back into the game.

"Villanova turned it up defensively and we knew they would do that," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "There were some physical turnovers but we also had five missed calls by our players coming out of timeouts. Those mistakes are more mental than physical."

Villanova had won 14 straight games against "Big 5" opponents before a 77-55 defeat last season. The Wildcats upended Pennsylvania already and play La Salle on Sunday before facing Temple later in the season.