Feb. 9: Villanova (-250 moneyline) at Rutgers.
You want to talk about something happening that truly never should have happened? That about sums up what happened at the RAC on Wednesday night.
No. 9 Villanova was in town and was the solid 5.5-point favorite and $250 moneyline favorite. Jay Wright's squad had won three straight and seven of the past eight in the series and led "pretty much" all of the way, clearly showing it was the superior team for 40 minutes -- or 39 minutes, 59.2 seconds to be exact.
It was 35-28 Wildcats at the break and that lead was extended on numerous occasions throughout the second half. The advantage ballooned to 66-53 with just over four minutes left and 70-60 with 2 1/2 to go. The Scarlet Knights are clearly one of the weaker teams in the Big East and this thing was therefore pretty much in the bag in terms of the outright. The number was a different story but even that very definitely appeared to be going the way of the 'Cats.
But Rutgers did miraculously get within a bucket, 72-70, with 22 seconds left. But James Bell nailed a triple for Villanova to push the lead back to five with a paltry 11 seconds to go.
But if you have read me before, you know where this was going and I promise you this is going to be good. Really, really good.
James Beatty banked in a ridiculous-looking three, and the Knights were once again within a deuce. They then fouled a Corey Fisher, a very good free throw shooter (79 percent) with eight ticks on the clock. Fisher only made one, and Villanova's lead was at three. So should Wright have his guys foul and send Rutgers to the line?
Well, no and yes, sort of.
With a few seconds to go Jonathan Mitchell (pictured above) heaved a three from 25 feet out and was fouled by Fisher. The ball went through the hoop (with .8 left) as did the ensuing free throw and after a harmless inbounds pass went awry, somehow and someway Rutgers had found a way to pull out the 77-76 incredible come-from-behind victory. It was shocking and stunning and any other similar adjective all rolled up into one.
Down 13 with a few minutes left, down 10 with a few minutes left, down five with 11 seconds left and then a four-point play with virtually no time left on the clock for the miraculous victory? Seriously? That happened?