Villanova Wildcats survive cold shooting, top Houston Cougars to make Final Four of NCAA tournament


SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Go to sufficient Villanova information conferences and it turns into evident in a short time that coach Jay Wright preaches sure issues, day in and time out. It is nearly a robotic, formulaic reply from Wildcats gamers: Angle. Villanova basketball.

Villanova not often strays from its ideas, and it has led them again to a well-known place for the Wildcats — they’re headed to their third Ultimate 4 previously six NCAA tournaments, with an opportunity to win their third nationwide championship over that very same stretch.

In a grind-it-out affair on the AT&T Heart on Saturday evening, 2-seed Villanova bought out to an early lead over 5-seed Houston, by no means trailed and pulled away within the closing minutes for a 50-44 win.

Villanova shot simply 28.8% (15-for-52) from the sphere, making it the primary crew to win an Elite Eight recreation whereas taking pictures beneath 30% from the ground since UCLA in 1971 (29%), based on ESPN Stats & Data analysis. The Wildcats’ 50 factors have been additionally tied for the fewest ever in an Elite Eight win.

“When you had informed me earlier than the sport that we will maintain them to 28% from the sphere, they’ll shoot 23% from the 3-point line, and we might lose, I would not have believed you,” mentioned Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose Cougars additionally struggled from the sphere, taking pictures 29.8% (17-for-57). “I knew it was going to take a very good crew to beat us. And a very good crew did. I assumed that was two nice cultures on the market tonight.”

Within the Ultimate 4, Villanova will face the winner of Sunday’s recreation between Kansas and Miami.

Jermaine Samuels led the best way for the Wildcats with 16 factors and 10 rebounds, and Caleb Daniels got here off the bench to attain 12 factors. Taze Moore was the highest scorer for Houston, going for 15 factors and 10 rebounds.

Houston had landed the primary punch towards each crew it had performed within the NCAA event till this level. The Cougars have been up 31-14 on UAB after 10 minutes, 16-9 on Illinois and 19-12 towards Arizona.

Wright anticipated extra of the identical when requested on Friday afternoon how he deliberate to arrange his crew for Houston’s depth and physicality from the opening tip.

“We’ll take a little bit smack within the mouth,” Wright mentioned. “We’ll need to get a really feel for it after which regulate as quickly as we will.”

There was no adjustment wanted.

The Wildcats landed the opening salvo, scoring the primary 5 factors and main 16-Eight after 10 minutes. They by no means trailed.

“Villanova was the aggressor within the first half,” Sampson mentioned.

“We simply did not come out aggressive, like Coach mentioned,” Houston ahead Fabian White added. “There wasn’t actually nothing that shocked us. We simply needed to buckle down, actually, on protection. They scored their first two factors fairly simply.”

Houston has constructed a fame beneath Sampson for taking groups out of their consolation zone on the offensive finish, however that is precisely what Villanova did to the Cougars within the first half. The Wildcats continually switched ball-screens and dribble hand-offs, not permitting Houston to get downhill off the dribble. The Cougars have been compelled to start out their protection additional out, and their jumpers weren’t falling like they’d within the first three video games of the NCAA event.

They took 5 3-pointers within the first seven minutes of the sport earlier than turning into extra aggressive off the dribble. However early on, Villanova would not let Houston win the place it likes to win: on the offensive glass and in transition. The Cougars are probably the greatest offensive rebounding groups within the nation and in addition excel at forcing turnovers and getting factors in transition.

By means of the primary 17 minutes, Houston had only one offensive rebound and compelled simply two turnovers, neither of which have been live-ball turnovers. Villanova was forcing Houston to work for every part offensively after which making the Cougars guard for 30 seconds on the different finish.

Villanova was out-Houstoning Houston.

Or, when you desire, Villanova was taking part in Villanova basketball.

Although photographs weren’t falling, the Wildcats continued to stay to their fundamentals. They took care of the ball, they did their greatest to maintain Houston off the glass, they allowed nothing in transition, they moved the ball successfully and utilized their regular assortment of pivots and pump-fakes to create area and get to the free throw line.

Angle. Villanova basketball.

“We simply have to stay collectively and say angle,” Wildcats guard Collin Gillespie mentioned. “That is what we satisfaction ourselves on, simply taking part in exhausting for 40 minutes.”

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” he added. “They’re well-coached, they play tremendous exhausting on each possession. They go to the glass at each ends of the ground. That is one thing we speak about each time we step on the ground — make certain we’re taking part in exhausting and we’re competing each possession. We take satisfaction in that. Simply ensuring we play Villanova basketball each time we step on the ground.”

Houston badly wanted a run that did not materialize for the primary 30 minutes of the sport. The Cougars are probably the greatest groups within the nation at happening scoring runs to increase a lead or erase a deficit. Sadly for them, Villanova is even higher at stopping runs.

In accordance with EvanMiya.com, an internet site that tracks superior faculty basketball statistics, Villanova is the joint-best power-conference crew within the nation at stopping sustained runs. Villanova has allowed 10-Zero runs simply six instances all season, or 0.17 per recreation, based on the positioning.

The largest run Houston managed all recreation was a 6-Zero stretch that minimize Villanova’s result in two with 5:25 remaining. For a crew that had the third-most 10-Zero runs within the nation, it was crippling for its offense.

Each time Houston seemed prefer it was gaining some momentum in entrance of the pro-Cougars crowd, Villanova responded. Daniels hit a pair of massive photographs halfway by way of the primary half after Houston lastly discovered a rhythm offensively. Gillespie, who had simply six factors and did not play effectively for a lot of the sport because of Jamal Shead’s elite protection, drew a foul effectively exterior the 3-point line and hit two free throws late within the first half.

Daniels began the second half with one other massive shot, this time a Three with 19:07 left. After which after Houston minimize the result in 5 early within the second half, Samuels drove to the lane, pump-faked two Cougars defenders after which completed the basket plus a foul.

“Having skilled guys taking part in in that setting like a real street recreation, them making a run, a extremely, actually good crew that you recognize can get on runs, and for them to maintain their composure and get a pair stops, hit massive photographs like Collin did,” Wright mentioned. “Having veteran gamers is the important thing to that, guys which were in that second earlier than.”

Houston did come out with way more aggression within the second half, grabbing three offensive rebounds and scoring 5 second-chance factors within the first 4 minutes. The Cougars have been having success across the basket and getting stops defensively, however their exterior photographs would not fall. They shot simply 1-for-20 from 3-point vary towards Villanova after going 9-for-20 towards Arizona on Thursday evening.

“We had a number of alternatives. They did not go in,” Sampson mentioned. “That occurs.”

When Houston lastly did go on a run — an 11-2 spurt to chop Villanova’s result in two, the closest it had been because the opening tip-off — it was the Wildcats’ greatest participant who got here up with the large shot. Gillespie buried a contested jumper over J’Wan Roberts with 5:02 remaining, and Houston did not rating some extent for the following 4 minutes.

A brief Shead jumper within the lane minimize Villanova’s result in 4 with 1:25 remaining, however Villanova responded instantly with a Samuels’ layup by way of contact. Houston wasn’t carried out but, although. Kyler Edwards hit a pair of free throws, after which Roberts compelled a jump-ball after Justin Moore slipped, showing to undergo an damage to his decrease proper leg. However Taze Moore’s layup on the following possession rimmed out for Houston.

A pair of Gillespie free throws pushed the Villanova result in six, and Houston would not get any nearer.

Villanova’s celebrations on the closing buzzer have been muted, nevertheless, given Moore’s doubtlessly severe damage. He went to the locker room on crutches throughout the trophy ceremony, and Wright did not sound optimistic about his availability transferring ahead.

Moore, a 6-foot-Four junior guard, is second on the crew in factors, third in rebounds and second in assists.

His potential absence can be a storyline all week in New Orleans, however for now, the Wildcats are celebrating one more probability at chopping down nets.

“It feels nice. It by no means will get previous,” Wright mentioned of advancing to the Ultimate 4. “It is the dream of each participant and coach in faculty basketball. It is the final word. We’ll get pleasure from this tonight and tomorrow. [Then we’re going to] relaxation up and get to work. We get to maintain taking part in; that is what we get pleasure from probably the most.”

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