Reynolds responded to his benching with a
clutch performance at the foul line in the final minutes of regulation,
and the Wildcats survived a scare from Robert Morris in a 73-70 overtime
victory Thursday in the NCAA tournament.
Coach Jay Wright sat Reynolds at the start of
the game to make a "teaching point," and he missed 13 of 15 shots from
the floor. But the senior star made seven of eight free throws in the
final 3:06 to send the game into overtime, finishing with 20 points.
Karon Abraham scored 23 for Robert Morris
(23-13), which was on the brink of becoming only the fifth No. 15 seed
to beat a No. 2 and the first since 2001. Abraham let fly a 25-footer in
OT that cut it to 71-70 with 10.2 seconds left, but an off-balance 3 at
the buzzer was no good.
The Colonials left the court to a standing
The Wildcats (25-7), trying to reach their
second straight Final Four, entered having lost five of seven and were a
surprising pick for the No. 2 seed in the South Regional.
That was only the start of the shockers.
First came the news that Reynolds, their team
leader and top scorer had been benched. Then Robert Morris nearly sent
them all packing way earlier than expected.
Like top teams do, the Wildcats found their
Reynolds couldn't find the basket, but he
never stopped hustling in the second half. His sliding save of a loose
ball at Robert Morris' end led to him making two free throws at the
other end and cutting it to 55-51.
The Colonials coughed up the ball again,
Reynolds was fouled again and he delivered again on both attempts from
the line and it was 55-53 with 2:10 left.
Robert Morris committed their 21st turnover
and — notice a pattern? — fouled Reynolds. Two more from the line and it
was tied at 55-all with 1:48 left in regulation.
Abraham made a tough layup after splitting
through traffic to go up two, Mouphtaou Yarou tied it with 52.8 seconds
remaining, and the Wildcats missed a last-gasp tip at the buzzer.
Reynolds hit his only 3-pointer of the game in OT to
give the Wildcats a cushion, and although Abraham kept the Colonials
close, it wasn't enough.
Abraham, a 5-foot-9 guard with a mohawk, put
most of the sold-out crowd solidly behind Robert Morris in the second
half on a pair of highlight reel plays. His first came from just beyond
the arc, he banked an off-balance three and crashed to the court on a foul.
He made the free throw for the rare four-point play and a 42-34 lead.
He followed that by scooting down the baseline
and tossing up a one-handed layup that went up and in for an
eight-point lead and brought out cheers of "Robert Morris! Robert
Reynolds and Corey Fisher were both benched for
the start, but their punishment didn't last long. Reynolds sat out 4
minutes and Fisher checked in about 30 seconds later. Wright held
forward Taylor King out the season finale against West Virginia for the
same "teaching point."
The Colonials came out firing from 3-point
range in an early attempt to rattle the Wildcats. Abraham sank his first
three 3s — a run-and-shoot from way beyond the arc brought the fans to
life — and helped them take a lead they wouldn't relinquish until there
was 1:48 left.
Robert Morris never could build the lead to
double digits, even with a 21-10 edge on the boards and holding the
Wildcats to only 30 percent shooting.
For all the Colonials did right, they did just
as much wrong. Those early 3s from Abraham helped, but the Colonials
missed their next eight attempts. Robert Morris turned the ball over 12
times to keep the Wildcats in the hunt.
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