You can’t sleepwalk in the Big East, even against sadsack South Florida. Villanova continued its epic downward spiral, blowing a 16-point halftime lead to lose 70-69 in the opening round of the Big East tournament. It was Nova’s fifth straight loss and 10th in its last 15 games.
Corey Stokes started for the Wildcats, but Anthony Crater finished for the Bulls. The junior guard made a crucial steal and converted an easy layup to give USF its first lead of the second half, 68-67, with 22 seconds left. After Maalik Wayns was bailed out by a foul and knocked down two free throws, Crater was back at it again. He hesitated bringing the ball up court then darted down the right side of a wide open lane to hit the game-winning bucket with seven ticks remaining. Wayns’ 3-pointer at the buzzer clanked off the back iron to send Nova back to Philly.
Cincinnati is next up for USF, but the real issue is what lies ahead for Villanova. We had the offensively-challenged team seeded seventh in our latest bracket, but it’s hard not to drop the Wildcats down to as far as a 10-seed after putting up just 20 points in the second half.
More on Nova’s slump in our "Day 1 lessons learned" post after Marquette and Providence.