Saturday , Mar , 11 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Graves leads Pitt over ‘Nova

New York, NY (Sports Network) – Antonio Graves had 18 points to lead 15th-
ranked Pittsburgh to the Big East final with a 68-54 win over No. 2 Villanova,
but the result was overshadowed by an ugly eye injury sustained by Wildcats
senior guard Allan Ray.

The sixth-seeded Panthers will take on ninth seed Syracuse in Saturday night’s
championship game after the Orange got by 23rd-ranked Georgetown, 58-57.

However, the bigger story in Friday night’s second semifinal was the eye
injury to Ray, the second-leading scorer on Villanova. Pitt’s Carl Krauser
inadvertently poked Ray in the right eye as the two went to the floor for the
ball 32 seconds into the second half. Ray had to be helped off the court and
his eye was covered by a physician’s glove.

Ray was then taken by ambulance to a local hospital for observation, but was
scheduled to be released and go home with his teammates. It’s a soft tissue
injury of the right eye. There is no scratched cornea and there were no
stitches.

“It looked a lot worse than it was,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “Al
is going to be released. He has vision and it’s going to be day-by-day
prognosis now. But it’s much, much better than we initially anticipated.”

Levance Fields had 14 points for the Panthers (24-6), who won the title in
2003 and lost in the championship game the following year to Connecticut. This
will be Pitt’s fifth trip to the title game in the last six years.

“I thought our guys, it was a whole team effort,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon
said. “Just our defense, our rebounding and our decision making was solid all
the way through. We were fortunate to beat a very good team, and we’ve got to
get ready for Syracuse now, get our rest tonight. Again, I’m very proud of
these guys.”

Randy Foye scored 26 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Wildcats
(25-4), who now await to see if they will draw a No. 1 seed for the NCAA
Tournament. Kyle Lowry tallied 10 points for Villanova, which shot just 35.2
percent from the field.

Saturday night’s final will mark the first time that a team will win this
tournament when playing four games.

Villanova actually got the upperhand in this game early, scoring the first six
points and bolting to a 9-2 lead. However, the Panthers asserted themselves
later in the half and built a 32-21 advantage at the break.

Pittsburgh held the Wildcats to 31.8 percent shooting in the opening 20
minutes, and Pitt started to pour it on in the second half. Seven straight
points by the Panthers opened a 39-26 lead. Villanova didn’t make a serious
push the rest of the game.

Game Notes

The Panthers outrebounded Villanova, 45-27…Foye was 10-of-25 from the field.

PITT VILLANOVA