Villanova outlasts West Virginia to advance to Elite Eight against Texas Tech | Zagsblog
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Wednesday / February 19.
  • Villanova outlasts West Virginia to advance to Elite Eight against Texas Tech

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    BOSTON — Villanova is headed to the Elite Eight and the Wildcats remain alive for their second NCAA championship in three years under head coach Jay Wright.

    Behind 27 points and 4 assists from junior guard Jalen Brunson and 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 assists from red-shirt freshman forward Omari Spellman, No. 1 Villanova outlasted No 5 West Virginia, 90-78, in an East Region Sweet 16 game at Boston’s TD Garden.

    Mikal Bridges went for 16 points and 6 rebounds and Eric Paschall 14 points as the Wildcats outscored the Mountaineers, 46-36 in the second half.

    Against the vaunted “Press Virginia” defense, Villanova made 13-of-24 from beyond the arc and now has made 44 through three games in the NCAA Tournament.

    “What a game, man,” Wright said. “What a college basketball game. I hope it looked as good as it did from the bench….Great win for us because West Virginia is so good.”

    The Wildcats (33-4), winners of eight straight, will meet No. 3 Texas Tech at 2:20 p.m. Sunday in the East Regional final here. Texas Tech dispatched No. 2 Purdue, 78-65, in the second game.

    Trailing 60-54 in the second half, Villanova rattled off an 11-0 run capped by a block by the 6-foot-9 Spellman on one end and a follow-dunk on a Phil Booth miss on the other to go ahead 65-60. They never looked back.

    “I saw an opportunity for the block,” Spellman said. “And I saw Phil take the shot and I said, ‘If he misses this, I’ve got to try to get it.’ I was just trying to get the rebound.”

    “We’re used to that,” Brunson said. “Omari can shoot, he can make plays..It’s nothing special for us. We’re used to that.”

    Paschall, a Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. native, got the Villanova faithful riled up with this two-handed dunk over Sagaba Konate that made it 73-64. Konate had earlier blocked Bridges with two hands.

    “Eric’s dunk, it’s honestly something that we’re used to seeing,” Brunson said. “We’ve seen some crazier ones in practice but we’re happy we have him.”

    Said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins: “They made shots, we didn’t.”

    Villanova hasn’t lost since a Feb. 24 outing at Big East rival Creighton. During that eight-game winning streak, Villanova won its second Big East Tournament title in three years and now finds itself back in the Elite Eight after winning the program’s second NCAA title in 2016.

    Daxter Miles Jr. led the Mounties (26-11) with 16 points but scored only five in the second half. Jevon Carter had 12 points and 8 assists in his final collegiate game and Konate went for 12 points and 8 rebounds.

    “The whole game, they don’t say anything,” Wright said of his respect for West Virginia. “They just came at you physically and mentally tough.”

    Looking ahead to Sunday, Wright said:  “Our biggest concern is being fresh for either one of these teams, physically or mentally.”

    Photo: Villanova Basketball

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.