Villanova survives 1st-round scare vs. Saint Mary's

Phil Booth scored 20 points as sixth-seeded Villanova posted a 61-57 victory over 11th-seeded Saint Mary’s on Thursday in the NCAA Tournament South Region first-round game at Hartford, Conn.
Booth shot 7 for 13 from the field and fellow senior Eric Paschall added 14 points for the reigning NCAA champion Wildcats (26-9), who advance to face third-seeded Purdue on Saturday. The Boilermakers were a 61-48 winner over 14th-seeded Old Dominion later Thursday.
Jermaine Samuels finished with 12 points to help Villanova gain a measure of revenge after being bounced by Saint Mary’s in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts each scored 13 points for the Gaels (22-12), who fell for just the second time in nine games. Saint Mary’s entered the contest off an upset of top-seeded Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference championship game.
Booth, who has helped Villanova capture two national championships in the last three seasons, returned from intermission with a flourish. The senior made a quick jumper and converted a three-point play before setting up Saddiq Bey for an open 3-pointer in the corner.
Booth wasn’t done as he recorded a steal and promptly fed Samuels for an emphatic dunk to cap a 12-3 run and give the Wildcats a 40-33 lead just 3 1/2 minutes into the second half.
Jordan Hunter sandwiched a pair of layups around Tommy Kuhse’s 3-pointer as Saint Mary’s cut into deficit, but Booth answered with two free throws and fed Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree for an alley-oop dunk to push the Wildcats lead to 57-49 with 2:24 left.
Saint Mary’s closed the deficit to four after Fitts made a jumper in the lane with 23 seconds left. The Gaels were unable to take advantage of Booth’s turnover on the next possession as Fitts misfired from 3-point range.
Villanova made its first three shots and bolted out to an 11-6 lead before Saint Mary’s settled its nerves and Matthias Tass’ 3-pointer highlighted a 7-0 run to claim an early two-point edge.
The Gaels seized their largest lead at 28-25 after Kuhse drained a 3-pointer, but the advantage was short-lived as Samuels answered with one of his own on the next possession. Fitts drilled a jumper with 51 seconds left as Saint Mary’s carried a 30-28 advantage into intermission.
–Field Level Media

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