By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Villanova 71, Texas Tech 59 – Box Score
After ripping through their first three tournament games by shooting a combined 47.8% from behind the arc, the inevitable bad shooting game befell Villanova in their East Regional Final matchup against Texas Tech. The Wildcats shot just 4-24 from three and 33.3% from the field overall, going especially ice cold during a 7-minute second half stretch where they made just a single basket.
Yet, mirroring their Elite 8 contest against Kansas two years ago, even when their shots weren’t falling, the Wildcats found another way to survive and advance. Instead of winning the game behind the arc, Villanova won it in the paint, more specifically on the boards. Jay Wright’s club grabbed nearly 50% of their missed shots, securing an incredible 20 offensive rebounds, while the Red Raiders only grabbed 22 defensive boards.
No offensive rebound was bigger than one by Donte DiVincenzo, after Texas Tech had whittled Villanova’s 15-point lead all the way down to 5. With Mikal Bridges’ three-point attempt sailing through the air, DiVincenzo (12 points, 8 rebounds) found himself unchecked racing down the lane. As the shot bounced off the rim, the 6’5″ guard threw down a vicious flush to once again make it a three-possession game and seemingly restore the momentum back in favor of the Wildcats.
Some other members of the supporting cast also stepped up big for the Wildcats. With Omari Spellman and Mikal Bridges in second half foul trouble, Eric Paschall rose to the occasion, double-doubling with 12 points and 14 rebounds. He had 6 offensive rebounds and converted those second chance opportunities at the free throw line, where he went 8-10. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree also contributed in a larger role with 5 offensive rebounds in his 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, it was far from his best shooting game, but Jalen Brunson still found a way to contribute in leading the team with 15 points. As Villanova’s offense bogged down, they often resorted to the 6’3″ point guard backing someone down on the baseline for some sort of fadeaway jumper or bank shot. It was a necessary bit of versatility to Brunson’s game that came in handy on an afternoon when not much was working offensively for the Wildcats.
Unlike Michigan the day before, things never got too uncomfortable for the Wildcats down the stretch because they were able to convert at the free throw line, going 29-35 on the game. The victory marks the third Final Four in the past 10 years for the Villanova program. It’s truly remarkable the level of high-end consistency Jay Wright has brought to this small private school on the Main Line. Next, it’s wheels up to San Antonio, where Villanova will meet the winner of Kansas and Duke.