2 seed Villanova became the first team in the 2022 NCAA Championship to punch a ticket to this year’s fourth final. The Wildcats, who were a bit underdog to the No. 5 Houston, fired in a win over the Cougars on Saturday, advancing into the final weekend of March Madness with a 50-44 victory.
In a match between two top-10 offenses, the Wildcats triumphed by winning in a way they don’t often do: by defense. They caught the Hot Red Cougars, who eliminated the top seed in Arizona at Sweet 16, to 1 of 20 from 3-point range and 17 of 58 from the ground. It was Houston’s worst shooting performance from the field since the 2013-14 season and worst mark from a 3-point range in more than a decade, according to a College Basketball reviewer.
“They played hard. It was difficult to score goals for both teams,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said in a post-match interview. “That’s what good defense means. They were good defensively, and we were good defensively.”
Villanova became the first seeded No. 2 to defeat the seed No. 5 in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. Jermaine Samuels once again shone for the Wildcats with 16 points, while Caleb Daniels – Nova’s only other double-digit player – added 12. Senior goalkeeper Colin Gillespie had only six points.
Villanova will face the winner from the Midwest in the Final Four next week, as she awaits the winner from #1 seed Kansas and #10 seed Miami. Here are some tips from Saturday’s game.
1. Defense, defense and defense
Houston averaged more than 75 points per game coming on Saturday. Villanova averaged just under 73 per game. The two teams couldn’t even muster a combined 100, though, into a defensive operation. If you have under, who landed at 127, you have reason to celebrate early.
“If you had told me before the game that we were going to catch them 28% of the field and 23% of the three-point streak, and we were losing, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Our kids were guarding. Oh man, they were guarding. Our defense was in place. We got them up to 50 points. We had a lot of chances, but they didn’t go in. It happened.”
Villanova’s 50 points were her lowest in a game since 2018. Houston’s 44 points were her lowest in a game since 2015. So, in true Marsh mad fashion, the two most effective offensive teams in this year’s NCAA Championship competed on defense, productive. The lowest-scoring tournament game of all post-season.
2. The continuation of the greatness of Nova
Villanova’s win over Houston gave the program its fourth appearance on the Final Four since 2009 and the third (!) in its last six tournaments. The last two times I got this far, I went and won it all.
Sure, the class is more difficult this time around—the #1 seed Kansas Wildcats may wait for the next round—but they can finish the job just like they did the two previous times. This team does not have the best depth, nor does it have the best front court. However, she does have experience, a versatility in the lineup, an elite coach and a March star at Jermaine Samuels.
3. Injury key to Nova
In the final minute of the game as Vilanova was closing the match, Justin Moore, the second team’s top scorer, fell with an apparent injury to his leg and did not return to the match. The severity of the injury is unknown, but the reaction here is…well, it’s not crazy to think that he could miss the rest of the tournament. Wright speculated after the match that Moore’s predictions were “Maybe not so good. “
If Moore can’t go, he will deal a crushing blow to a Vilanova team that doesn’t have the depth it had in previous years. Only seven Wildcats entered the game on Saturday and one of them played three minutes. There’s something to watch ahead of next week’s fourth final with a match against the remaining top seed in the tournament likely to wait.
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