Despite a sloppy start to the game, the Wildcats pulled themselves together long enough to dig out of an early deficit and take a 4-point lead into halftime. They would never really get much more separation than that, however. The game stayed close through the second half, with La Salle storming back after almost any small Villanova lead.
It was a two-point game with just 25 seconds on the clock, with the Wildcats ahead and about to inbound the ball. The shot-clock turned off, the 'Cats got the ball in to Arcidiacono, who was fouled. After Nova made just one of two shots, La Salle nailed a triple on the other side of the floor and the 'Cats would have just 6 seconds to try and avoid overtime.
When the buzzer sounded, the score was tied at 67-all.
Though La Salle forward Jerrell Wright fouled out with four minutes left in regulation, the overtime period wasn't much different for the Big 5 rivals. The Explorers had plenty of answers left late in the game, and Nova lead by just a point with 40 seconds left.
Villanova turnover as the clock ticked down past 30 seconds lead to an Explorers timeout and one last play to try and take their first win over the Wildcats in over a decade.
The Explorers managed to find a wide open Tyreek Duren on the left flank, streaking past the Villanova defense to take the ball to the hole — 74-75 with just 18 seconds remaining. Yarou tried to put a layup of his own in, but it bounced off the rim, forcing the 'Cats to foul with just 6 seconds on the clock.
"Was the backdoor a surprise? Yes, because we're not supposed to be denying Duren, if it had gone to Galloway or Mills, it wouldn't have been a surprise," Jay Wright explained of the pivotal shot. "Again, that's execution. You have to know personnel at the end of the game. Just on that play, we allowed the guy to catch the ball, didn't pressure him, we denied the wrong guy. So again, you give them credit for execution, you give us poor marks for our execution."
La Salle's Steve Zack made both of his free throws to give them a 77-74 lead, and six seconds later, that became the final score as JayVaughn Pinkston's buzzer-beater also bounced off the rim.
Even if that shot had gone in, it wouldn't have been enough to even send the game to a second overtime, as Pinkston opted to drive to the hoop instead of taking pulling up for a three-pointer.
"I wasn't aware of the time or the score, so that was my fault," Pinkston explained.
"I thought we had it. I just thought we would gut it out, there never really was a time I thought… you know you have to think that way during games," Wright said. "I even thought to the end, I even thought [Pinkston] would pull up and hit a three, and that's what you're thinking."
Pinkston was second on the team on the scoreboard with 19 points in the game, making 60% of his shots from the field and going 1-for-1 from deep. He also added seven rebounds and four assists, but turned the ball over only once in the game. He played mostly at the 3 against La Salle.
"I feel good with the loss, because I know we played hard," he explained. "We didn't play smart, but the bigs worked together, the guards played well, it's just the little things at the end that we need to get better at. We're going to go in the gym and work on that and play Villanova basketball."
Mouphtaou Yarou paced the Wildcats with 20 points and seven rebounds in the game, finally seeming to put in the type of game performance that is expected of him this season. It may have helped that Wright seemed to move him to the power forward role for long stretches, where he was able to play a more face-up offensive game. He played well for almost all of the game, notching two blocks and 3 assists as well, though one turnover, charged at the end of the game, helped La Salle take the momentum late.
Pinkston didn't start the game, with Coach Wright opting to bring the sophomore off of the bench in favor of giving Mo Sutton the start.
"It's all kind of going back to our, trying to simplifying everything," Wright explained of the change. "We were playing JayVaughn at the 3, and I thought he did a really good job coming off the bench today, and we're just trying to . . . so when you do that, you move other people around. We're trying to get Tony [Chennault] and Ryan [Arcidiacono] in simple spots, doing the same thing with the ball. That's really what it was.
"We keep JayVaughn at the forward spot, we're not moving him back and forth. We don't move him back and forth, so we keep Tony — he's got to play the one and the two, and Arch has to play the one and the two — so we're just trying to keep it simple for those two. That's really what it's a part of.
"JayVaughn understands, he's great with it."
Neither point guard had a tremendous performance in La Salle's gym. Arcidiacono scored just six points, with four rebounds and though he had seven assists to lead the team, he also turned the ball over six times. Chennault was even worse with his assist-to-turnover ratio, coughing the ball up 3 times without converting a single assist in the game.
"I think both our point guards struggled," Wright noted. "That's a big part of the game, I thought their guards did a great job of pressuring our guards and not allowing them to get us in the offense. We struggled, especially down the stretch —both in regulation and in overtime — getting into our offense and I thought Galloway just did a great job pressuring our guards, Ryan especially.
"I think their guards were very very good. Tony's still learning what we do and Ryan is still a freshman too, and that's a big part of college basketball, when your point guards are both kind of new to what you do."
La Salle's Ramon Galloway shadowed Arcidiacono for much of the game and was credited with five steals, which was half of his team's total. Villanova turned the ball over 18 times in the game to La Salle's eleven.
"Pressuring 94 feet, making people uncomfortable," Galloway explained of their defensive efforts. "I just go in there every time on defense and look to make somebody uncomfortable."
It was another disappointing loss for the Wildcats, but not an unsurprising one, as the last three meetings with the Explorers have been too close for comfort. According to Wright it was all a matter of execution.
"I think it was a classic Big 5 game, and a classic example of one team executing down the stretch, in overtime and in regulation, and another team not executing. We gotta learn from this and we have to take responsibility for it that we didn't execute — and give them credit; they did."