March 25, 2006

Villanova and Connecticut advance after scares

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top seeds Villanova and Connecticut
emerged victorious from overtime battles to reach the final
eight of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.

Villanova squeezed past Boston College 60-59 and
Connecticut overcame Washington 98-92 in a pair of round of 16
thrillers in North America's annual college basketball
showpiece event.

Will Sheridan clinched the victory for Villanova when
Boston College's Sean Williams was called for goaltending as he
swatted away the forward's shot with three seconds remaining in
overtime at Minneapolis.

Sheridan's contribution capped a fine comeback from
Villanova (28-4), who roared back from a 16-point first-half
deficit to claim the physical contest.

Randy Foye led the Wildcats with 29 points. Craig Smith
topped fourth-seeded Boston College (28-8) with 14 points and
12 rebounds.

"It was a great ballgame," said Foye, who scored
Villanova's last six points in regulation, then delivered a key
three-pointer early in the overtime.

The shorter Wildcats employed quickness and defense to
counter the more-physical Eagles.

"We knew they were much bigger than us, so the defensive
plan was to attack and blitz them when Craig Smith had the ball
to make other guys make plays," Foye, the Big East Conference
player of the year, told reporters.

Still, Smith almost ruined Villanova's plans, scoring with
12 seconds to play to give Boston College a 59-58 lead.


Connecticut needed a minor miracle to send the game with
Washington into overtime and received one when Rashad Anderson
hit a 26-foot three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in regulation
to knot the score at 82-82 in the Washington regional game.

Connecticut never trailed in the extra session, as a lay-up
by Marcus Williams and two foul shots by Hilton Armstrong
pushed the Huskies' lead to 94-89 with 24.4 seconds left,
keeping alive their hopes of a second national title in three

Williams paced Connecticut in scoring with 26 points and
Anderson added 19. Jamaal Williams scored 27 for Washington
(26-7) on 12-of-22 shooting, with Brandon Roy adding 20.

Connecticut (30-3) will play upstart George Mason (26-7)
for the Washington regional title on Sunday after the number 11
seed continued their unlikely run with a 63-55 win over number
seven seed Wichita State, led by Folarin Campbell's 16 points.

Villanova will meet Florida (30-6) for the Minneapolis
regional championship on the same day.

The Gators edged Georgetown 57-53 on Corey Brewer's
three-pointer with 27 seconds remaining. Joakim Noah led
third-seeded Florida (30-6) with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Jeff Green topped Georgetown (23-10) with 15 points.

The NCAA championship game will be played April 3 in

(Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg)

(Writing by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina)