The Villanova Wildcats’ journey through the 2019 NCAA Tournament came to a screeching halt on Saturday night, as a hot-shooting Purdue Boilermakers prevailed over the ‘Cats in an 87-61 lopsided loss to fall short of the Sweet 16.
”They are a very, very good team,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “We knew that coming into the game. They just have great balance, inside game, iso game, drive, shoot threes, defend great as a team--just really impressive, and we wish them luck going forward.”
The Boilermakers, who struggled to find efficiency or an offensive rhythm in their opening round showdown with Old Dominion on Thursday night, left the cold-shooting hands at the hotel for Saturday’s Round of 32 matchup.
Purdue didn’t look like a team that was fresh off of a mediocre 30 percent three-point shooting performance. The Boilermakers took control from the start, with All-American guard Carsen Edwards catching fire from deep. His play was infectious, as the other Boilermakers played off of his energy. Overall, Purdue shot 29-of-54 overall (53.7 percent) and 16-of-30 from beyond the arc (53.3 percent).
Villanova didn’t seem to have an answer for him, or the rest of the Boilermakers. Purdue meticulously picked apart the ‘Cats with crisp ball movement and bullied them with their imposing size, while ‘Nova failed to answer back offensively.
”We tried to make them understand their ability to hit threes and execute their offense with great precision, and we just didn’t have them ready from the start,” Wright said. “When you just gave up--to a team like that--a lot of threes early, uncontested threes. Then, once you get a great shooting team like that going, and then you’re over-aggressive trying to take away those threes, then they start slipping.”
Wright continued: “They get you on the inside, they get you on the offensive rebounds. It became an ugly game. I thought it began with their ability to get threes and our inability to recognize where their shooters were.”
The Wildcats held the lead for a brief moment, during an initial trading of baskets to start the game. From there, the Boilermakers snatched the lead. Once they pushed their edge into double figures, they hardly looked back.
Edwards started the game shooting 5-of-8 from long range and never seemed to cool down from the perimeter. He drained nine three-pointers en route to a career-high 42-point performance.
”I wouldn’t say I knew I had a career night until the game was over,” Edwards said. “I was just so focused on trying to get the win, especially in games like this where you value every possession. I was out there fighting with my brothers and was able to get the win, and I was able to have some shots fall for me.”
He sparked the rest of the Boilermakers, with sophomore center Matt Haarms and sharpshooting wing Ryan Cline joining in to torment the ‘Cats. Villanova seemed to lose track of Haarms and Cline, as the 7-foot-3 big man finished off easy opportunities down low and Cline took advantage of his opportunities from deep with all the attention placed onto Edwards.
Haarms imposing size was also problematic for ‘Nova, who desperately tried to climb back into the game, but got any momentum broken down by offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities.
Purdue took a strong 43-24 lead into halftime.
After the break, things got even worse for the ‘Cats. Purdue opened the second half with a 13-0 run to effectively put the game out of reach. Villanova continued its cold spell offensively, going almost six minutes without a made shot to resume the game.
The Boilermakers pushed their lead to as high as 35, before ‘Nova chipped away at it a bit, but the deficit was too great to overcome.
Aside from Edwards’ high-scoring night, Haarms added 18 points--on 8-of-12 shooting--and nine rebounds. Cline finished with 12 points.
”The game’s humbling, and it’s good for us sometimes,” Wright said of being on the winning and losing end of the NCAA Tournament for the last four seasons. “You don’t choose to be in this position, but when you win you’ve got to realize that there’s guys on the other side that are working just as hard as you, and you’ve got to be respectful of them and understand you could be on the other side of it, and today we are...We have to be respectful and give Purdue credit, and we have to get back to work.”
For Villanova, Eric Paschall had a team-high 19 points. Phil Booth chipped in 15 points, including his 1,500th career point. Jermaine Samuels finished with 11 points.
Paschall and Booth exited to large standing ovations from the Villanova faithful. Villanova finishes its season 26-10 overall.
”Thank you for keeping the culture strong and the tradition alive this season, rather than go in for your own personal glory,” said Wright, about his post-game message to his seniors. “On behalf of the whole Villanova community--thank you. On the court, off the court, they were gentlemen and leaders. They were consummate Villanova Basketball players.”