The Villanova Wildcats are heading to the second round of the NCAA tournament after defeating Mt. Saint Mary’s 76-56 on Thursday night. It was not the cleanest performance for the tournament's top ranked team, but they managed to take care of business in the second half. They are set to face either Virginia Tech or Wisconsin on Saturday.
The Wildcats got off to an abysmal start on the offensive end. They missed their first 8 field goals and took over seven minutes to score their first points. Mt. Saint Mary’s defense had Villanova locked down. Forcing them to use the entire shot clock to get any sort of looks at the bucket and doing a good job blocking whatever looks Villanova could manage.
The Mountaineers were extremely quick getting back on defense and the Wildcats had trouble figuring out their opponents’ “Mayhem” defense. They finally were able to tie the game at 18 for the first time when Kris Jenkins hit three free throws with just over five minutes to play before halftime. Their first lead came with just over a minute left in the first half on an Eric Paschall slam, and went into the break leading 30-29 after Jalen Brunson made a layup seconds before the buzzer.
Villanova raced out of the gate to start the second half. Josh Hart took over for the Wildcats, and quickly stretched their lead to twelve. The Wildcats bench play is what really separated them, with their bench outscoring that of the Mountaineers 31-5. Mt. Saint Mary’s stuck around for part of the second half, but were eventually outmatched by the better team. Their offense was relegated to taking any three point look they could get, and tired legs were unable to keep up on defense. Villanova outscored their opponents 44-25 in the second half.
Brunson had 14, and Hart added 11 in the winning effort. Donte DiVincenzo had a double-double off of the bench with 21 points and 13 rebounds as Villanova pulled away down the stretch. Jenkins had a day to forget, only scoring 7 on 2-13 shooting. Mt. Saint Mary’s guard Miles Wilson had an impressive performance, leading the Mountaineers with 22 points.
Jay Wright’s squad will be staying in Buffalo this weekend, meeting the winner between No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 9 Virginia Tech on Saturday at the KeyBank Center. The game time will be announced later.