Pinkston, No. 12 ‘Nova squeak by No. 19 Michigan in Legends final
NEW YORK — JayVaughn Pinkston ended some back-and-forth drama worthy of March with a bucket, a block and then a mad break — straight into the waiting arms of his Villanova teammates.
The Wildcats had room to embrace all 6-foot-7 of him, and still have plenty of hands free to hoist a trophy.
Pinkston had the go-ahead basket and game-saving block in the final minute to lift the 12th-ranked Wildcats over No. 19 Michigan 60-55 in the Legends Classic championship game Tuesday night.
Pinkston put the Wildcats (5-0) up 56-55 with a spin for separation and a one-handed shot with 13.4 seconds left. He then had a clean stuff on Zak Irvin’s dunk attempt off an inbounds pass with 5 seconds left.
Ryan Arcidiacono sealed the win with four free throws.
Tournament MVP Dylan Ennis led Villanova with 15 points. Pinkston finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
Caris LeVert had 16 points for Michigan (4-1). LeVert put the Wolverines up 55-54 and flexed his muscles in the direction of Villanova players.
The Wildcats were the ones, though, with the knockout blow.
"We can tell by the way these teams play, we’re not sneaking up on anybody," coach Jay Wright said.
The lead swung both ways multiple times over the final 3 minutes.
Ennis hit a tying 3-pointer with 2:25 left and Josh Hart, a 50 percent free throw shooter, made one of two from the line for a 52-51 Villanova lead.
Then it was Michigan’s turn. LeVert, who opened some eyes on the big stage in New York, hit a fallaway for a 53-52 lead. Pinkston’s basket off the glass gave it right back to Villanova.
It was just the first clutch shot for Pinkston, who grew up about 15 minutes away from the Brooklyn neighborhood where Barclays Center now stands.
His go-ahead shot turned Villanova’s bench into a giant welcoming party as he ran to greet his teammates. Pinkston’s lone block of the game spared the Wildcats from succumbing to one more Michigan rally.
"I was just focused on defense and trying to make a play on the ball and that’s what I did. I came up with the big block at the end," he said.
Pinkston’s block came after he muffed his assignment and let the ball get to Irvin.
"He did mess up first," a laughing Wright said.
The Wolverines had plenty of fight in the second half.
Michigan snapped a cold spell in a big way to rally its way back into the game. The Wolverines, who missed 12 straight shots at one point, suddenly could not miss.
After his team was down 38-31 only 2 minutes earlier, Spike Albrecht hit a go-ahead 3 for a one-point lead.
Michigan used no-look — and no-D — passes to shred Villanova inside with a string of uncontested dunks. Ricky Doyle, who had fans chanting his name in Monday night’s win over Oregon, screamed after two big dunks made it 47-41 and put the Wolverines in control.
Michigan went on a 16-3 run that added to the cushion late in the game.
"When we were running our offense, running our sets, doing good cuts, setting good screens, it was working," LeVert said. "But there (were) times we weren’t cutting hard. We were stagnant a little bit and they’re a good defensive team, so they picked up on that."
Ennis had the defensive play of Villanova’s young season with a block late in the first half. D.J. Wilson, 6-foot-9, tried a right-handed dunk that was met with a right-handed rejection from the 6-2 Ennis. Ennis landed on his tailbone after his epic elevation sent `Nova fans into a frenzy.
"I think they had three or four of those type of rim-protecting type of plays today — three big blocks where I think we really had good leverage," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We had the basket but their guys came out of nowhere to take it away from us."
Villanova: The Wildcats missed their only two free throw attempts in the first half. … The Wildcats held Michigan scoreless over the final 7:10 of the first half and used a 9-0 run to lead 27-20 at the break.
Michigan: The Wolverines did not attempt a free throw in the first half. … The Wolverines called three timeouts in about 25 seconds early in the second half. They had only one left over the final 15 minutes.
Villanova hosts Delaware on Sunday.
Michigan hosts Nicholls State on Sunday.
Beilein was peeved the game did not tip until about 10:15 p.m. The already late start time was delayed about 15 minutes because of a football game on ESPN2.
"I love ESPN. I love it," he said. "But when they told me that game was being moved back 15 minutes, something’s wrong. We have a whole bunch of guys with 8 and 9 o’clock classes tomorrow morning and we moved that game to 10:15 so that a football game could be finished. Let the football game finish. Let us start our game. This is way out of whack."
As part of the unprompted rant, he added: "This is wrong and we’re going to fix it."
NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN
Michigan and Villanova, two of the most decorated programs in college basketball, played each other for the first time since the 1985 NCAA tournament.
HE SAID IT
"I bought cologne. The kids bought clothes." — Wright on how the Wildcats spent their time in New York.