There were plenty of upsets on Friday and despite being a popular pick among college basketball analysts after the NCAA Tournament bracket reveal, the Villanova Wildcats weren’t one of them.
The fifth-seeded Wildcats are moving on after holding off a resilient No. 12-seeded Winthrop Eagles team in a 73-63 opening round win.
The ‘Cats initially jumped out to a strong start and grabbed a quick 10-point lead, before Winthrop settled in with a run of its own to close the gap. The ‘Cats had a small scoring drought of their own, but managed to take a 34-33 lead at the half.
After the break, the Wildcats went on an 8-0 run to gain some separation. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl started the scoring spurt with a layup, which was followed by back-to-back threes from Bryan Antoine.
The bench added some solid minutes. Aside from Antoine, Cole Swider hit a couple of threes in the win. Brandon Slater provided some defensive energy, and Eric Dixon even got to make a brief appearance.
Even as Villanova managed to push its lead into double figures, the Eagles never rolled over.
However, the Wildcats placed the clamps on the Eagles in the second half. Winthrop was limited to just 27.6% overall and 23.0% from long range after halftime.
Although the Eagles made it close a number of times, they weren’t able to overtake the ‘Cats.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led the way with 22 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, one steal, and three blocks. Justin Moore added 15 points. Meanwhile, Jermaine Samuels had 11 points, and Caleb Daniels finished with 10.
For Winthrop, forward D.J. Burns had 12 points before fouling out. Adonis Arms finished with 10 points off the bench.
After the game, the NCAA cited “technical difficulties” and cancelled any post-game interviews and Zoom conferences with Villanova and Winthrop.
The Wildcats will take on North Texas on Sunday, who’s fresh off of an overtime upset of fourth-seeded Purdue.