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2018 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game recap: Brunson lifts Villanova to victory over West Virginia, 90-78

The junior point guard was locked in, racking up a game-high 27 points, to help his team move onto the Elite Eight.

West Virginia v Villanova Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Villanova Wildcats have proven time and time again that they are a second half team, and Friday night was no different.

Villanova used an elite second half performance to down its former Big East foe, the West Virginia Mountaineers, to advance to the Wildcats’ second Elite Eight in three years.

They downed West Virginia, 90-78, and they will wait for the winner of the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Purdue Boilermakers.

After an intense, back-and-forth first half, things started to go in the Mountaineers’ favor, as the Wildcats were disoriented by their hardnosed defense and shots were dropping on the other end of the court.

‘Nova was ice cold to start the second half, as West Virginia outscored the ‘Cats 18-7 in the first nine minutes after the break.

A steal and score by Jevon Carter gave West Virginia a 60-54 lead, with 11:08 remaining. Villanova responded with a time out.

The Wildcats inched back into the game, as Jalen Brunson was able to end the scoring drought. It also helped that Omari Spellman provided some key highlight plays, including a putback dunk and a handful of timely three-pointers.

Mikal Bridges drained a three-pointer to give the Wildcats the lead again, and they would hold onto it for the rest of the way.

West Virginia never made it easy, fighting to the last minute—-even when ‘Nova started pulling away in the closing minutes.

However, the Wildcats were able to overcome the feisty defense, after struggling against it to begin the game. The Mountaineers had no answer for the Wildcats’ hot hand. ‘Nova made seven of its final nine shots to close things out. It was a welcomed change of pace from how the first half went.

While Brunson was able to carry the ‘Cats in the first 20 minutes of the game, his team uncharacteristically struggled with taking care of the ball. The Mountaineers forced nine of the Wildcats’ 16 turnovers in the opening half.

It didn’t help that Mikal Bridges was stuck on the bench due to a couple of fouls that kept him away from the action for a majority of the half.

Despite all this, ‘Nova held onto a 44-42 lead going into the break. Even with a scare from the Mountaineers, the ‘Cats were able to eventually hold them off for the win.

Brunson was a bright spot for the Wildcats for all 40 minutes of the game, racking up a game-high 27 points. Spellman, a redshirt freshman, also enjoyed a solid performance with 18 points and eight rebounds, including a 4-for-7 showing from long range. Bridges had 16 points, while Eric Paschall chipped in 14.

For West Virginia, Daxter Miles had a team-high 16 points. Jevon Carter had 12 points, eight assists, and four steals. Sagaba Konate finished with 12 points, nine boards, and three blocks.