Villanova Punches Ticket to Final Four


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Villanova Punches Ticket to Final Four

Kevin Gamgort

And then there were Four.

On Sunday, Villanova defeated Texas Tech 71-59 in the Elite Eight and are advancing to the Final Four for the second time in three years. 

It was a gritty, hard fought game, one that may not look pretty on paper, with both teams shooting 33.3 percent and Brunson having a game high of just 15 points. Although they’re known as an offensive juggernaut, the Wildcats played great defensively, which did not go unnoticed from Head Coach Jay Wright.

“That was definitely our best defensive effort of the year,” Wright said. 

The key factor in the game: offensive rebounds. Villanova pulled in a season high 20 offensive rebounds and outrebounded Texas Tech 51-33 in the game. Texas Tech Head Coach Chris Beard addressed this after the game.

“We really got whipped on the boards,” Beard said. “We haven’t got outrebounded like that all year.”

Offensive rebounds were pivotal in giving Villanova second-chance points, which they capitalized upon many times in the contest. Eric Paschall and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree led the way with six and five offensive rebounds respectively.

The first half came to a conclusion with Villanova leading Texas Tech, 36-23. The Wildcats trailed 9-1 early in the game, but a 14-4 run pushed them in front. The half consisted of stout defensive performances, resulting in both teams shooting sub 40 percent. Even though both teams shot poorly as units, Villanova had better success getting their shots to fall than Texas Tech (37 percent compared to 33 percent).

Although this is common for the Chris Beard led Texas Tech, the same could not be said for the ‘Cats. Villanova had easily displayed one of their better defensive efforts of the year in the first half and they looked to continue this momentum down the stretch. Paschall led the ‘Cats in point at the half with nine, while also adding six rebounds.

As a team with so much depth, the surprise of the first half was Cosby-Roundtree. The freshman played nine minutes in the first half, contributing four points and seven rebounds, five on the offensive end. This spark from the bench was pivotal in the Wildcats scoring output.

The second half was similar to the first, in the sense that it was an offensive struggle for both units. For the beginning of the half, Villanova and Texas Tech traded baskets but the ‘Cats maintained a double digit lead. Texas Tech had many opportunities throughout the second half, but struggled to finish at the rim.

“I thought we missed a lot of layups at the basket from where I was sitting,” Beard said. “I think we had some chances to finish, and we didn’t.”

 Texas Tech cut the deficit to five (52-47) with just under six minutes to go. While the Red Raiders made the game tight in the end, the Wildcats soared ahead en route to a 71-59 victory. No matter what obstacles they face, the Wildcats remain unfazed. This is due in part to the Villanova mentality, which is built on toughness. 

“Their identity is their toughness – [Villanova is] one of the toughest teams we played this year,” Beard said.

Villanova was led in scoring by Brunson, who finished the game with 15 points. Paschall posted a double-double in the contest with 12 points and 14 rebounds. The Wildcats were balanced with their scoring output, as five members of the team scored double digit points.

When asked about the potential of this team and what makes them so consistent, Brunson had a clear answer.

“Our togetherness. You can just see how we are. Every Villanova team I’ve been on has been like that, but every time you get to do this, it’s special. Every time we take the court together it’s special and I just love being a part of this team and this program means the world to me,” Brunson said.

The ‘Cats will face the winner of Kansas and Duke in the Final Four on March 31 in San Antonio, Tex. If the Wildcats win this matchup, they will play in the National Championship game with a chance to add a third trophy to the case.