BOSTON - Some Villanova teammates started to celebrate with 20 seconds left. Dwayne Anderson put a stop to that. He gathered guys at the foul line, 'Nova up three, Reggie Redding about to take two free throws.

The gist of what Anderson told them: Not yet. . .no way.

He had no idea . . .

Villanova has a win in its history known as "The Perfect Game," so what happened tonight has company at the top of the school's historic food chain. But there's no disputing that what went down at TD Banknorth Garden will go down as the wildest finish in 'Nova history and the game of the year in college hoops.

And Anderson goes down as a guy who kept his head.

The senior swingman had no idea how right he was, of course - how 'Nova won it and basically blew it and won it again with 0.5 seconds left when Scottie Reynolds finished his drive for the ages and a 78-76 trip to the Final Four.

But remember all this, too:

Anderson's three-point play with 2:53 left, drawing 'Nova back within 67-66.

Anderson's three-pointer with 1:17 left, putting 'Nova ahead, 71-69, with 1:17 left after Corey Fisher had driven and dished to Anderson.

The defensive play of the game, the one that set up that three-point play: Anderson part of a trap on Pitt's Jermaine Dixon out by half-court, getting a piece of the ball, getting to it and taking the ball from him.

Here was the topper for the kid everybody expected to transfer before last season. Anderson was Villanova's leading scorer with 17 points. That last steal was his fourth of the night.

The rest was pandemonium, of course. But the players looked back quickly enough.

"Dwayne stepping into his shots, even though some of his shots in the first half didn't go," Reynolds said later about the supporting star of the late minutes.

And Reynolds said of that steal: "It's something we talked about at halftime, saying that if we're going to go down, we're going to play our style."

Said coach Jay Wright: "That was huge. ... Seniors just, they just get it done for you, man. They're invaluable. That was a big part of the game."

Anderson said of the play: "It was definitely spur of the moment. We were down and we needed something to get us going. Somehow, I deflected it. It kind of changed the momentum of the game, which was great for us."

It was Fisher making free throws and Reggie Redding surviving his ill-fated pass to make another, Shane Clark hitting those early three-pointers, etc., etc.

"They're so happy," Wright said. "They're way happier than me."

After it was over, and the second net was cut down, Anderson was up in the stands, halfway up, hugging every family member he could find. Other families wanted to give hugs, so Anderson kept yelling down to the floor for other guys to get up there. After about a minute, somebody saw him and most of the Wildcats got up there, too, following Anderson again.

Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.