Nova Rallies From 21 Down, Beats LSU

Friday, December 7th 2007, 11:42 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Malcolm Grant's four-point play was a rare enough moment. No one could have imagined it would spark an extraordinary victory for No. 25 Villanova on Thursday night.

``I can't remember ever winning one like that,'' Wildcats coach Jay Wright said.

Not many people can.

Grant had the four-point play and nine other points over the final 3 minutes, and Dante Cunningham scored the game-winner with 5.9 seconds left as Villanova rallied late from a 21-point deficit to stun LSU 68-67 on Thursday night in the Big East/SEC Invitational.

``I just wanted to help the team any way I could,'' Grant said.

The 6-foot reserve guard helped the Wildcats (6-1) in every way possible down the stretch. He came in averaging 7.2 points, but scored seven points in 24 seconds to jolt a Villanova team that seemingly had lost its shot, its confidence and the game.

``They had us,'' Wright said.

Enter Grant.

His four-point play came with 2:55 left and he followed that with another 3-pointer that cut LSU's lead to 56-53. The Wildcats forced a turnover at midcourt and scored a layup and suddenly they had a pulse.

Grant made four more free throws that pulled the Wildcats within three. Then he was amazingly fouled again on a 3-point attempt. This time the basket was no good, but he made all three from the line and LSU, which had led 54-33, was clinging to a 67-66 lead.

Grant tried to win it for the Wildcats on their last possession, but he missed a shot from the right side. Cunningham was there with the rebound layup that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

``I just crashed and got the loose ball in my hands,'' Cunningham said.

In the only other game involving a ranked team on Thursday, No. 13 Butler beat Detroit 53-46

``We didn't play the way Coach wanted us to, but we got the win and that's the important thing,'' Grant said.

Villanova's only lead came on the shot that mattered most: the Wildcats' last one.

Wright was about the only one watching who wasn't surprised by Grant's breakout night or the grit his Wildcats showed in climbing back from their biggest deficit of the season.

``We showed great heart and Malcolm was incredible,'' Wright said.

LSU dominated almost the entire game and most of the crowd had started to leave. Instead, Villanova gave those who stuck around one game to remember, rallying from the 21-point lead over the final 8 minutes.

``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.''

Grant finished with 18 points and Cunningham had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Marcus Thornton led LSU with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Terry Martin hit four 3s to help the Tigers build the early lead and finished with 14 points.

LSU had 14 blocked shots.

``We had the game in our hands to win it,'' Brady said. ``We didn't do the things that were necessary. We don't know how to win yet. That was obvious tonight.''

It wasn't obvious early.

Villanova had four turnovers in the first 4 minutes, seven in the half _ and missed 15 of its first 20 shots. The Tigers led 35-24 at halftime and they seemed to thwart any hope of a rally when Martin hit a jumper just inside the 3-point line midway through the second half, then came right back and made one from behind the line to push the lead to 54-33.

``Any team that loses, doesn't deserve to win,'' Brady said.

  • No. 13 Butler 53, Detroit 46

Freshman center Matt Howard had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the visiting Bulldogs (8-0), who took the lead for good with 2:45 to play on a 3-pointer by Julian Betko.

Jon Goode had 21 points and seven assists for the Titans (4-4), who lost their third straight to Butler.