The Villanova Wildcats are heading back to the Final 4 for the second time in three years thanks to a 71-59 win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Sunday afternoon in Boston.
With the Wildcats going cold from beyond the arc, it was a vintage Villanova defensive performance that carried the team to victory. ‘Nova held Texas Tech to 33.3% shooting from the field, and 25% shooting from beyond the arc.
Offensively, it wasn’t pretty, but a balanced attack saw five Wildcats score in double-figures led by Jalen Brunson’s 15 point, 4 assist and 6 rebound effort.
Here’s what we learned on Sunday:
Villanova’s defense has returned at just the right time
For all the love that the offense has (rightfully) received, the defense has been trending upward since the ‘Cats took down the Big East Tournament in New York City. Since their last loss at Creighton in late February, Villanova has allowed under 67 points per game.
They also showed a dominance on the boards today that was entirely unexpected, and crucial. With a lid on the rim, Villanova grabbed 20 offensive boars (51 overall). Doing the unsung things like defense and rebounding will make Jay Wright happy.
If the defense can hold up their end of hte bargain next weekend, their potential opponents will have a tough time beating this group.
Eric Paschall was a monster, and Jalen Brunson won’t be denied
With Omari Spellman and Mikal Bridges fighting foul trouble, Villanova needed one of their role players to step into the limelight. DaDa Cosby-Roundtree gave some nice minutes that gave us a glimpse into his future, but it was Eric Paschall who took over and dominated. He was everywhere, recording and 14 rebounds (6 offensive!). When he’s playing with energy and confidence like that, there aren’t many players who can handle him.
But how about Jalen Brunson. Can he be stopped at this point? He’s almost a shoe-in for National Player of the Year, and in another hyped battle with Tech’s Keenan Evans, Brunson came out on top yet again. He delivered time and time again, his most crucial basket coming late in the game on a signature post-up to put the game away.
Villanova didn’t shoot well, and that’s scary for the Final 4
Everybody else should be worried. It’s highly unlikely that the ‘Cats shoot 17% from downtown again, much less 33% from the field overall. A reversion to the mean - combined with the stifling defense they’ve found, and these guys are cutting down the nets in San Antonio.
Get ready Texas, Villanova is coming back just two years after they won the National Championship in Houston!