Villanova gets by West Virginia into Elite Eight in Boston, 90-78
BOSTON — The rest of the East Regional of the NCAA Division I basketball tournament is going to have a tough time living up to the first game. Thank top-seeded Villanova for that.
An 18-8 run midway through the second half, capped by a thunderous rebound dunk from the Wildcats' Omari Spellman, pushed the Wildcats into the Elite Eight round as coach Jay Wright's squad knocked off No. 5 West Virginia 90-78 Friday night at TD Garden.
"What a game. What a college basketball game," Wright said at his post-game press conference. "I hope that looked as good [in the stands] as it did from the bench."
The Mountaineers used a 10-0 run to take a lead and were up 60-54 after a Jevon Carter hoop with 11 minutes and four seconds left. Out of the time out, the Wildcats scored the next 11 points and never trailed again.
Jalen Brunson, who had a game-high 27 points and also had four assists, scored the first five points of that run, and his pass to Mikal Bridges for a 3-point hoop with 9:32 to go broke the final tie of the game, and the Big East champions never trailed again.
Brunson was one of four Wildcats (32-4) in double figures. Spellman had 18 points, Bridges scored 16 and Eric Paschall had 14.
"I think the deeper we go, the better the teams are going to be," Brunson said. "Most importantly for us, nothing changes. Nothing changes the way we play, no matter where we play, what time, what day, it doesn't matter
Villanova will face the winner of Friday's late game between No. 2 Purdue and No. 3 Texas Tech. The game will be played on Sunday here at the Garden. The time will be determined by the NCAA and CBS after the conclusion of the late night games.
There were six ties and four lead changes in a first half that saw Villanova cling to a 44-42 lead.
The second half opened with Villanova's Paschall hitting a 3-point shot with 19:39 left. From there, the Wildcats went cold as the Mountaineers went on a 10-0 run, taking a 52-47 lead with 14:50 to play.
The teams traded points and when Carter hit a bucket with 11:04 left in the game, the Mountaineers (26-10) had a 60-54 lead. Wright called time out to settle his troops.
"I was all right, I really was," Wright said. "I knew there was a lot of time. I knew with [West Virginia], the way they play, there were going to be a lot of possessions. Like we were talking about earlier, I thought we were doing some good things."
Brunson scored two foul shots and then off a turnover scored on a three-point play. Paschall converted two free throws to tie the game. Then, after the 6-foot-9 Spellman blocked James Bolden's shot, he got the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Booth. Booth missed a shot, but Spellman followed that up with a spectacular dunk, giving Villanova a 65-60 lead.
"I just saw the opportunity for the block. I came over and got the rebound and tried to outlet it," Spellman said. "I saw Phil going to the hoop, and I was just thinking to myself, if he misses this, I got to get it."
Gradually the Wildcats pulled away for the victory.
Daxter Miles Jr. had 16 points to lead West Virginia. Sagaba Kornate had nine rebounds and three blocks to go with his 12 points for the Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers, who shot 15 for 31 from the floor in the first half, were 12 for 39 in the second half. In all, West Virginia and Villanova each made 27 shots in the game, but the Wildcats took 16 fewer attempts.
"I start telling guys at the beginning of the year, man, at this time of year, if you want to win in March, you have to make open shots," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said after the game. "They made open shots, we didn't."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-49-6253.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.