NEW YORK — Villanova forward JayVaughn Pinkston’s return to Brooklyn was a memorable one.
Playing at the Barclays Center, just 15 minutes from Bishop Loughlin High School where he was named New York’s Mr. Basketball as a senior, Pinkston played a pivotal role in Villanova’s 60-55 win over Michigan in the finals of the Progressive Legends Classic on Tuesday.
The senior forward had the go-ahead basket and game-saving block in the final minute to provide No. 12 Villanova (5-0) with the win in a wild, back-and-forth game that had the atmosphere of an NCAA Tournament game.
Pinkston put the Wildcats ahead 56-55 with a spin move and a one-handed bucket with 13.4 seconds left. The 6-foot-7 Pinkston then blocked Michigan forward Zak Irvin’s dunk attempt off an inbounds pass with five seconds left.
The tournament was the first time he played at Barclays since high school. Pinkston finished with eight points and nine rebounds. He scored 15 points in the tournament semifinal against VCU on Monday.
Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono sank four free throws for the final verdict.
Dylan Ennis, a junior guard and the tournament MVP, led the Wildcats with 15 points.
Junior guard Caris LeVert topped No. 19 Michigan (4-1) with 16 points.
“It was a fun experience to win the tournament in front of my family and friends,” said Pinkston. “Coach (Jay Wright) always tells me to focus on my defense and the scoring will come.”
Against Michigan, it was the opposite, even though Pinkston admitted he “screwed up on the block.”
“I kind of messed up on the play,” he said. “I saw someone fall down and I blocked the shot.”
Wright went into greater detail.
“His (Pinkston’s) job on that play is to not let anybody get the ball,” Wright explained. “He got a little over-excited and jumped out. To get from where he was to block that ball was incredible.
Ennis’ 3-pointer from the right baseline tied the game at 51-51 with 2:44 to play, and sophomore guard Josh Hart’s free throw put the Wildcats ahead 52-51. The two teams traded baskets before LaVert’s jumper put the Wolverines ahead 55-54 with 58 seconds to go.
Pinkston then hit the pivotal shot.
Villanova seemed secure with a 33-22 lead early in the second half, but Irvin ignited a 25-8 run by the Wolverines with a jumper. He scored eight in the run as the Wolverines went ahead 47-41 with just under eight minutes left in the game.
“I told the kids in the locker room how proud we were of them,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “I know that’s coach speak, but it was 33-20 at the end of the first half. I sensed at that time that we had doubts if we would win the game.
“I’m really proud of how their spirit changed. We became a different team.”
The Wolverines’ scoring drought that ended the first half continued into the second. At one point, they burned two quick timeouts because they couldn’t get the ball inbounds due to a stifling Wildcats defense.
In the first half, LeVert scored eight straight points that eventually led to a 20-18 lead for the Wolverines. That lead was quickly erased thanks to a 9-0 run from the Wildcats that ended the half. Ennis contributed two layups and forward Kris Jenkins nailed a 3-pointer in the sequence.
Michigan went the final 7:17 of the half without scoring, failing to convert any of its 10 shots.
There was very little separation by either team early in the first half that featured eight lead changes.
NOTES: VCU defeated Oregon, 77-63, in the tournament’s consolation game. … The last time Michigan and Villanova met was in the second round of the 1985 NCAA Tournament, eventually won by the Wildcats. … Villanova was a unanimous pick to win the Big East Conference in the coaches preseason poll. … Michigan played its fifth game in 10 days. … Michigan coach John Beilein claimed five of the seven meetings with Villanova coach Jay Wright from 2003-07 when Beilein was coaching West Virginia.
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