Villanova Outguns Miami to Reach Elite Eight

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

Villanova 92, Miami 69 – Box Score

Hard to believe that just two weeks ago, people were wondering whether the big stage of the NCAA tournament would once again prove too bright for the Wildcats. Well, after three games, the only thing too bright about this tournament is the red-hot shooting from Villanova. The Wildcats stuck with their incredibly smart “hit almost all your shots” strategy, knocking off #3 Miami for a sweet, Sweet 16 victory.

Despite Josh Hart heading to the bench very early in the first half with two fouls, Villanova pulled out to a huge 15-point lead at 29-14. That surge was thanks in large part to the outstanding play of senior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who couldn’t miss early on, scoring 13 points while Miami still had 10 as a team. Arch would finish the night tying a team-high with 21 points on 4-7 shooting from downtown.

The Hurricanes had one big run in them though. After stemming some early turnover woes, some scorching shooting got them back in the game. Unsurprisingly, their two starting guards were at the center of the action. Sheldon McClellan would eventually record a game-high 26 points, going 5-7 from three. Meanwhile, Angel Rodriguez chipped in 13 points (3-4 from three) with a game-high 8 assists. Those two helped Miami to a 16-2 run which brought the Hurricanes within 31-30, as close as they would get on the entire night.

It was just prior to the lead being cut to one that Jay Wright made the wise decision to throw Josh Hart back on the court. One of my biggest pet peeves is coaches giving players the auto-bench through the rest of the half, but Wright fortunately did not make that mistake with Hart. The 1st-team All-Big East wing helped stabilize things and turn the tide of the Miami rally; Hart finished with 14 points in just 21 minutes of action.

The Wildcats went into the locker room ahead by 6 points, as both teams shot 64% or better from the field in the first half. While Miami returned to more earthly standards of shooting after the break, Villanova continued to look like they had taken the limitless pill and figured out the perfect physics for a simple jump shot.

The Wildcats continued to drain shot after shot, steadily pulling away from the Hurricanes and ballooning the lead to as many as 25 points. By night’s end, Villanova finished the game 32-51 from the field (62.7%), 10-15 from three (66.7%), and 18-19 from the foul line (94.7%). If they’re knocking down that high a percentage of their shots, the Wildcats are beating any team in the country. It’s that simple. Through three tournament games, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Opposing coaches are shook to the point where they’re basically seeing ghosts.

Kris Jenkins has been outstanding shooting the ball the last few weeks; his hot hand continued Thursday, as he tied a team-high with 21 points, going 5-6 from behind the arc, and adding 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Oh, and he casually channeled his inner Steph Curry and knocked down a 35-footer. No big deal.

Villanova will next face #1 Kansas at 8:49pm Saturday night. It seems like these Wildcats aren’t even close to ready to put away their dancing shoes.


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