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Tournament Throwback: #1 Villanova vs. #5 West Virginia (2018)

The ‘Cats won a rock fight against West Virginia’s smothering press

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs West Virginia Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Given the cancellation of this year’s NCAA Tournament, we have decided to use the next few weeks to look back and remember Villanova’s greatest tournament successes of the past. We will be walking through Villanova’s three National Championships on a game-by-game basis. So, as you’re locked inside quarantining and social distancing, share your thoughts, memories, and stories as we relive Villanova’s greatest moments.

Game Watch

Tune in to the VUHoops’ screening of the Second Round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament between #1 Villanova and #5 West Virginia TONIGHT AT 7:00 p.m. EST.

The game should play simultaneously for all who are watching so please take part in the live game chat!

Link: VUHoops Re-Watch

Villanova 3s shoot down West Virginia pressure 90-78

BOSTON — Villanova’s 3-point party rolled past the intense pressure of West Virginia to bring the Wildcats to the doorstep of another Final Four two seasons after winning a national championship.

The top-seeded Wildcats continued their outside feast in the NCAA Tournament, downing the fifth-seeded Mountaineers 90-78 on Friday night to earn their second trip to the regional finals in three seasons.

Jalen Brunson led Villanova with 27 points and Omari Spellman had 18 with eight rebounds as Villanova overcame the West Virginia press by hitting 13 of 24 shots from 3-point range.

Daxter Miles had 16 points to lead West Virginia. Jevon Carter and Sagaba Konate added 12 each.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs West Virginia Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova (33-4) has now made 44 3-pointers for the tournament. The outside barrage helped the Wildcats overcome 16 turnovers and played into their Sweet 16 plan for their opponents nicknamed “Press Virginia”: Attack the stifling defense head-on.

”What a game, man. I hope that looked as good as it did from the bench, man,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “That was the most physically demanding, mentally draining 40 minutes we’ve played in a long time. They are so relentless.”

The Wildcats struggled at times, especially in the first half, but dug out of a six-point hole in the second half with an 11-0 run.

The Mountaineers (26-11) stayed close throughout, ramping up the pressure and making Villanova play faster than it wanted to early. But foul trouble throughout the second half was too much for West Virginia to overcome after it gave up the lead.

Carter was called for his third with 17:33 left in the game. That was followed by Miles being whistled for his third and fourth fouls over a two minute stretch that sent him to the bench with 15 minutes remaining.

Coach Bob Huggins said the fouls “absolutely” stifled the Mountaineers’ ability to keep pressure on Villanova.

”When the whistle keeps blowing it really takes away your aggression,” he said.

West Virginia adjusted for a while, taking advantage of a more than three-minute Villanova scoring drought to take a 60-54 edge with just over 11 minutes left.

But Villanova heated up again. Its 11-point run was capped by a thunderous block and dunk on the other end by Omari Spellman that pushed the Wildcats back in front 65-60.

The Wildcats kept the momentum going, stretching the lead to 76-66 on a 3-pointer by Brunson.

”The deeper you go, the better the teams are going to be,” Brunson said. “For us, most importantly, nothing changes no matter who we play, where we play, what time we play. We play every game like it’s our last.”

West Virginia never got closer than 4 points the rest of the way.

”I felt like we gave it everything we had,” Carter said. “We just didn’t make shots tonight and Villanova did.”

In a slugfest, Villanova shows it can take a punch


BOSTON — Villanova Coach Jay Wright doesn’t like to call a time out when he knows the next whistle will bring a break for TV. But with 11:04 left Friday night at TD Garden, he felt he had no choice.

West Virginia, Villanova’s former rival in the old Big East, had just gone on an 18-7 run to take a 60-54 lead in an old-fashioned Big East brawl of a basketball game.

“I had to call the timeout,” Wright said after his team had come back to win, 90-78, and advance to Sunday’s East Region final. “They were on a run, and it could have gotten out of control. When they came to the bench, I looked in their eyes, and I didn’t see any fear. If I’d seen fear, I might have gone crazy, but I could see they were all right. I really didn’t have to say much.”

Whatever he did say clearly worked. Spurred by an odd four-point play by Jalen Brunson — made free throw, missed free throw, WVU losing the rebound, Brunson drive, made free throw — Villanova went on a 19-4 run for a 73-64 lead with 6:46 left that never dipped below seven points the rest of the way.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs West Virginia Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

“We gave up that four-point play, and the margin got back to two pretty quickly,” West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins said. “They made open shots, we didn’t make open shots. I tell our guys right from the start, when you get to this time of year, you have to make wide-open shots. We got more shots than they did [70-54], more rebounds [39-36], and just didn’t make shots. That was the difference.”

Much will be made of Villanova’s three-point shooting — 13 of 24; 7 of 11 in the second half — with good reason. Much will also be made of Brunson’s virtuoso performance, his 27 points and four assists, two of them critical during the Villanova burst that gave it control of the game.

But the reason the Wildcats will play in the Elite Eight here Sunday boiled down to one word: grit. Villanova was able to dig in and get down and dirty against a team that has made down and dirty an art form.

“What a college basketball game that was,” Wright said, shaking his head, clearly drained. “Give West Virginia all the credit in the world. They’re so relentless. That’s why I’m so proud of the way we handled all that and found a way to win.”

How good, as Wright pointed out, was this game? At the first TV timeout, Villanova was 6 for 6 from the field, two of the shots three-pointers. It led, 14-8. Then, the Wildcats cooled a little, and shortly after the second TV timeout, the score was tied at 22. That was pretty much how the game went, each team taking its turn imposing its will on the other.

There were moments when Brunson was unstoppable, finding the seams in West Virginia’s traps, clearing space and feathering jump shots that barely touched the net going through. By halftime, he had 16 points.

West Virginia’s hard-nosed point guard, Jevon Carter, got called for his first foul 58 seconds into the game. He got his second with 7:25 left, shortly after he had made a three-point shot to give WVU it’s first lead of the game at 25-24. Both fouls were called as Carter tried to reach in while trapping the ball. They were both NCAA fouls — the kind that really don’t affect the play but officials have been ordered to call.

The three officials were the most dominant team on the floor most of the night. They called 21 fouls by halftime and 48 for the game. Then, in the first six minutes of the second half they called six — all on West Virginia, which to that point had outscored Villanova 10-3. Villanova was in the double-bonus with 10:58 left in the game.

“This was like an old Big East game,” Wright said, smiling. “Except in the old Big East there would have been no fouls called.”

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Villanova vs West Virginia Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Even with the fouls mounting — notably a fourth on Daxter Miles Jr., Carter’s backcourt partner, the rough Mountaineers continued to give Villanova a rough time. Down 47-42 after an Eric Paschall three-pointer to open the second half, the Mountaineers began to give Villanova trouble with their press, leading to the 60-54 lead and the Wright timeout.

Calm as he might have been, Wright’s message clearly got through to his team. During the game’s last 11 minutes, they outscored the Mountaineers 36-18.

Huggins called a timeout after the initial 11-0 run, but the momentum had changed. Villanova was dug in on defense, taking away the inside from West Virginia, and, as Huggins pointed out, his team couldn’t buy a three-point basket, hitting only 3 of 14 in the second half. That, as it turned out, was the difference.

The end was emotional for the two West Virginia seniors, Carter and Miles, who had trouble talking when they met with members of the media after leaving the court.

For Villanova, it was another step, its second trip to the Elite Eight in three years. Last time the Wildcats went this far, they ended up as national champions.

“This kind of game will help us Sunday,” Wright said. “You don’t want that first moment where you’re down six against a very good team in the second half to come in the Elite Eight.”

It came, instead in the Sweet 16. Villanova proved, as smooth and pretty as it may look, it can take a punch. That’s why the Wildcats are still playing.

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