Ryan Arcidiacono has played 140 games in his collegiate career.
He wasn’t about to let a Sweet Sixteen matchup against the Miami Hurricanes be his last.
Arcidiacono recorded 21 points, including 13 points in first eight minutes of the game, to set the pace and lead Villanova to a 92-69 win over Miami to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2009.
"I wanted to be aggressive from the start and we ran a great out-of-bounds play to get me going," Arcidiacono said. "Then I just was being aggressive for plays that were called for me and just read the defense.
"We've seen this before," Jay Wright said. "There's times when he starts getting it going and I think everyone on the team is like 'thank God Arch is taking this over.'"
While Arcidiacono led the way with his toughness and attitude, the Wildcats’ patented balanced offensive attack was on full display. Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Josh Hart, and Kris Jenkins combined for 71 points, all scoring over 14 points apiece.
"It makes teams have to deal with a lot of guys and they can't key on one person," Arcidiacono said. "We read the defense today and made plays for each other."
Ultimately, it was too much for Miami to handle.
"We had no way to stop them," Miami coach Jim Larranaga admitted. "We couldn't put any defensive stops together, and the credit goes to Jay [Wright] and the game plan they had and the way they've played throughout the season."
Both teams shot the ball with incredible efficiency – the Wildcats 1.58 points per possession was the highest in school history over the past five seasons. In addition, Villanova shot 63% from the field, 67% from beyond the arc, and 95% from the line while the Hurricanes’ 53/58/73 shooting splits were higher than an average losing team.
Although the Hurricanes shot the ball efficiently, their star point guard, Angel Rodriguez, struggled against the tenacious Villanova defense. Arcidiacono, Bridges, Phil Booth, and Jalen Brunson all took turns on the prolific guard, limiting him to only 13 points on 11 shot attempts.
What made the difference for Villanova was ultimately hustle. While Wildcat fans are accustomed to seeing Arcidiacono dive into press row, it was Josh Hart’s turn tonight. Of course Arcidiacono found his opportunities to dive on the floor for the loose ball but the bench trio of Bridges, Darryl Reynolds, and Booth all made significant, timely energy plays.
"I'm really pleased with their intensity," Wright said. "It all comes from them. You can see they're hungry to advance. When the players take over responsibility for all your core values, you're a good team. It's [Ochefu] and Arch, but it's everyone else buying in."
The first half was filled with highlight plays for both sides. Kris Jenkins buried a three from the logo, Miami’s Sheldon McClellan impersonated Michael Jordan with his corner step-back, and Bridges’ steal and layup fueled a momentum shift in the first half.
Villanova jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start the game and increased the lead to 15 with a Jenkins three-pointer. While the Hurricanes stormed back, cutting the lead to one, the Wildcats went into the half with a six-point lead.
To open the second half, Josh Hart scored six consecutive points. Villanova maintained a 10-15 point lead for the rest of the game.
The Wildcats now await the winner of Kansas-Maryland in order to secure a birth in the Final Four for the first time in seven years.
"Kansas is a great team. So is Maryland," Brunson said. "So it doesn't really matter to us. I know that whoever wins, it's going to be a really good game. We're going to have to be prepared for it."