Villanova temporarily lost one of its top players against Pittsburgh on Friday night, then lost the game 68-54 in the semifinals of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Villanova, the second-seeded team in the tournament, struggled against a big, physical and inspired Pittsburgh team. The sixth-seeded Panthers advanced to tonight's championship game against ninth-seeded Syracuse.
Villanova played most of the second half without its second-leading scorer, Allan Ray, who sustained an injury to his right eye with 19 minutes 28 seconds remaining when he was poked by Carl Krauser of Pittsburgh during a scramble for a loose ball.
Ray was taken to St. Vincent's Manhattan Hospital for observation. Ray, a senior guard, entered Friday night's game averaging 19.4 points a game.
"We just got a report from the doctor at the hospital, and it is great news," Villanova coach Jay Wright said after the game. "It actually looked a lot worse than it was. Al is going to be released, and he has vision."
The Wildcats shot 35.2 percent from the floor. Antonio Graves scored 18 points to lead Pittsburgh (24-6). Randy Foye scored 26 points to lead Villanova (25-4). Kyle Lowry (10 points) was the only other player to reach double figures for the Wildcats. This was the first meeting this season between the two teams.
Tonight's game will be first Big East championship matchup in which both competitors had to play on three consecutive nights to reach the finals.
Syracuse 58, No. 23 Georgetown 57
For two thrilling afternoons at the Big East tournament this week, Gerry McNamara's clutch shooting reminded everyone at Madison Square Garden of the transcendent power of postseason basketball.
McNamara made miraculous 3-pointers to save Syracuse in victories against eighth-seeded Cincinnati and top-seeded Connecticut that assured the Orange a berth in the NCAA tournament.
On Friday night, McNamara managed to add to his repertory of rescues in a 58-57 victory against Georgetown in the semifinals. Syracuse (22-11) will defend its tournament title against Pittsburgh (24-6) on Saturday night. The sixth-seeded Panthers advanced Friday night with a 68-54 victory against second-seeded Villanova.
McNamara scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, all while hobbled by a nagging groin injury.
McNamara not only delivered a clutch 3-pointer, which has almost become expected this week, but he dished the winning assist to give Syracuse its only lead of the game and then sealed the victory by forcing a turnover with 1.5 seconds remaining. The late flurry capped Syracuse's recovery from a 15-point halftime deficit.
"I don't think a Syracuse team has ever been considered a Cinderella, but its starting to look like the shoe fits," the Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins said. He then look at McNamara in the locker room and smiled, "I know that we definitely have the luck of the Irish."
Jason Richardson scored a career-high 44 points to win a shootout with Dwyane Wade and lead the Golden State Warriors to a 111-106 victory Friday, snapping Miami's 10-game winning streak.
Wade scored a season-high 42, making it the first time in Heat history that a player for both teams scored at least 40 points.
The Heat had the longest current winning streak in the NBA, although none of their past 10 games was against a team now above .500. That included the last-place Warriors, who snapped a four-game losing streak and won on the road for the first time in seven tries since the All-Star break.