By Harry Allison
This is not your grandfather’s Villanova Wildcats.
Or even last season’s!
That was readily apparent last night when Jordan Lyons scored 17 points, Matt Rafferty had 15 points and 17 rebounds, and Furman stunned the defending national champion Cats in overtime 76-68.
Lyons and Rafferty delivered huge buckets in overtime to key a 7-0 spurt that put the Paladins ahead 69-63 in the final minute, enough cushion for them to hang on for the victory in front of a shocked sellout crowd at the recently renovated Finneran Pavilion.
Phil Booth scored 20 points and Colin Gillespie had 19 for the Wildcats (2-2), who were coming off a 27-point loss to Michigan in a rematch of April’s national championship game. It marked the first time Villanova lost back-to-back games since March of 2013.
“It’s not that shocking, to be honest,” Booth said. “They’re a very good team. We’re still a young team trying to find our way.”
Trailing 58-53 with under four minutes to play in regulation, Joe Cremo hit a 3-pointer, Booth scored and Gillespie made a layup in transition to put Villanova in front, 60-58, in the final minute.
After Lyons hit two free throws to tie the game at 60, Booth missed on the other end and Hunter misfired on a long 3-pointer in the final seconds. Cremo was called for a foul while going for the rebound, but Rafferty couldn’t connect on the front end of a 1-and-1 with 2.6 seconds left, setting the game up for OT.
Rafferty said his teammates picked him up and told him to make up for the missed free throw in overtime — which he did.
“This was incredible,” Rafferty said. “I’ve never been a part of something like this.”