KNOXVILLE, TENN. — A gift from a longtime friend brought Villanova coach Harry Perretta luck, and a pair of upperclassmen provided the Wildcats with another important victory.
Senior Katie Davis hit her fifth three-pointer with 4:18 left, giving Villanova its first lead as the second-seeded Wildcats rallied to beat Colorado 53-51 in the Mideast Regional semifinal Saturday.
Perretta wore an orange tie, a present from Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. The coach said Summitt has given him four ties, and they all have brought him luck.
"I haven't lost in it yet," he said. "She was trying to make me look better on the sideline. I needed a tie that cost more than $5."
It looked like Villanova's surprising season would end as the Wildcats (28-5) trailed by 11 in the second half. But now they will play in their first regional final Monday night against top-seeded Tennessee, which beat Penn State 86-58.
Villanova has won seven straight, including a victory over Connecticut in the Big East tournament championship game March 11 that snapped the Huskies' 70-game winning streak.
"We won another game. I don't know how we do it," Perretta said.
Sixth-seeded Colorado (24-8) had plenty of opportunities to reach its fourth regional final in 11 tournaments. Tera Bjorklund scored 29 points, but she missed five straight shots in the final five minutes.
Her worst miss came when she threw up a shot under pressure that hit the bottom of the backboard with Villanova up 50-49 and a minute left. Bjorklund scored with 7.5 seconds left to pull Colorado to 52-51, but Davis hit the first of two free throws for the final margin.
Linda Lappe threw up a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer that did not reach the basket.
Colorado coach Ceal Barry, who lost four starters off a team that reached the final eight last season, looked at the bright side.
"We lost the game by two points in the Sweet 16," she said.
Davis finished with 16 points for Villanova. Junior Courtney Mix scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half and had 12 rebounds, which compensated for a poor performance by Trish Juhline. The Wildcats' leading scorer had just six points on 1-of-9 shooting from the floor, well below her average of 17.9 points a game.
Villanova missed eight of its first 10 shots and hit just six of 24 in the first half. The Wildcats ran out of time on the shot clock on two possessions in the half.
"I've never seen a team win with a lack of certain skills and athleticism," Perretta said of his Wildcats. "Have you ever played a pickup game when you're outclassed and still win?"