- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

NEW YORK — From a psychological standpoint, Georgetown could not have drawn a more treacherous matchup than Villanova.

When the top-seeded Hoyas (25-4) meet the Wildcats (20-11) in today’s opening Big East tournament quarterfinal, they will face a desperate bunch looking to parlay personal animosity into an NCAA tournament berth.

Any list of players looking to settle scores against the Hoyas likely starts with Villanova’s guard tandem of Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes.

A former Herndon High School star and McDonald’s All-American who wanted to attend Georgetown, Reynolds has spent his first two seasons at Villanova making Georgetown coach John Thompson III regret not finding him a scholarship.

In Thompson’s defense, Reynolds only became available the spring after Kelvin Sampson left Oklahoma for Indiana in 2006, leaving Reynolds the option to break his commitment to the Sooners. Thompson had a scholarship available but saved it for freshman Chris Wright; as it turns out, Thompson could have taken Reynolds, but at the time he had no way of knowing that underclassmen Josh Thornton, Marc Egerson, Octavious Spann and Jeff Green would all be gone by the time Wright arrived this season.

“It just didn’t work out [with Georgetown],” Reynolds told The Washington Times last season. “It was a little tough to swallow at first. Situations happen where things don’t work out the way you want, and you’ve just got to live with it. Coach Thompson told me it wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough. The timing just wasn’t right. They were out of spots.”

And Reynolds has made Thompson and Co. suffer ever since, averaging 17.3 points in four career games against Georgetown.

Said Thompson of the 6-foot-2 guard: “Scottie Reynolds is terrific, absolutely terrific. I know he’s going to score 50 points every time he plays us.”

Against the Hoyas, Reynolds has company, and not just from Beltway-bred junior starters Dante Cunningham (Potomac, Md., High School) and Dwayne Anderson (St. John’s High School). Enter Stokes, who on Feb. 11 was whistled for a questionable foul on Georgetown’s Jonathan Wallace 80 feet from the Hoyas’ hoop with the score tied and only one-tenth of a second remaining. Wallace dropped both free tosses to give Georgetown a 55-53 victory and turn Stokes into either a goat or a martyr.

“A lot of people talk to me about it,” Stokes said. “After the game a lot of people were asking me if it was a foul. The referee just made a call. It was what it was. You have to just play through it. Tomorrow you have another chance to play them, and hopefully we come out with a victory.”

According to most pundits, the Wildcats need that victory to earn an NCAA berth. Though they do boast a signature victory against Connecticut, the Wildcats also finished 9-9 in league play and sport a dubious RPI ranking of 57. A victory over the Big East’s two-time defending regular-season champions and defending tournament champions certainly would boost their postseason resume.

And just as fate would have it, Reynolds and Stokes seem to be peaking just in time for Georgetown. Yesterday, the two combined for 40 points in Villanova’s 82-63 opening-round demolition of Syracuse. Reynolds connected on four of his seven 3-point attempts and added six assists without a turnover to his 22-point line. And Stokes, whom Villanova’s Jay Wright describes as the best pure shooter he has recruited in his 25-year career, rained in four 3-pointers of his own en route to matching his career-high 18 points.

“It’s great playing at Madison Square Garden,” said Stokes, who has averaged 13.4 points in the Wildcats’ last eight games. “It was always my dream as a kid to play in the Big East tournament.”

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