Jalen Brunson scored 15, a game high, as the Villanova Wildcats (34-4) advance to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament with a 71-59 victory over #3 Texas Tech (27-10) at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon.
Texas Tech gained the upper hand in the contest’s first 2:23, grabbing a 7-0 advantage as the Wildcats misfired on their first three attempts from the field. A Jalen Brunson free throw got Villanova on the board but Thomas Hamilton IV scored on the next possession to make it 9-1in favor of the Red Raiders.
But the Wildcats leaned on their defense and chipped into the deficit. A 3-pointer by Donte DiVincenzo from the right wing gave Villanova its first lead at 15-13 before a Jarrett Culver put-back of his own missed shot deadlocked matters at 15 as the game approached the midpoint of the first half.
The activity and work around the basket by Paschall helped the Wildcats carve out a 27-21 lead through 16:06 despite connecting on 8-of-20 of their field goal attempts to that (.400).
With Mikal Bridges and Omari Spellman both picking up their second fouls, Villanova needed a boost up front and it got one from freshman Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. The Philadelphia native supplied four points, five rebounds and seven rebounds to help the Wildcats build a 36-23 halftime lead.
Villanova crafted its intermission advantage despite connecting on just 10-of-27 field goal attempts (.370) against one of the nation’s top defensive teams. But VU’s work on defense was superb in the period as it limited the Red Raiders to 9-of-27 accuracy from the field (.333).
Each team scored seven points in the first 4:59 of the second half, meaning the Wildcats retained a 13-point edge as play came to a stop for the first official timeout of the period. But the Red Raiders kept chipping into the deficit with gritty defense – VU was 1-of-10 in one second half stretch – and closed to within 52-44 after a tip-in by Norense Odiase with 6:43 to play in the second half.
A 3-pointer by Texas Tech’s Josh Webster reduced the Wildcats’ advantage to 52-47 before Villanova forced a turnover that led to a Phil Booth layup at the other end. Keenan Evans sank two of three free throw attempts at the 4:58 mark to close the gap to 54-49. DiVincenzo put back a missed Bridges 3-pointer to extend the lead to 56-49 before the Red Raiders got two back at the free throw line. It was 56-51 with 4:14 on the second half clock.
Eric Paschall sank one of two free throws at the line and the Wildcats got a defensive stop. A sharp feed from Jalen Brunson led to a pair of Bridges free throws at 2:57 which pushed the lead to 59-51. Another Villanova stop – this one courtesy of a blocked shot from Cosby-Roundtree – got the Wildcats another possession. Davide Moretti sank two free throws for the Red Raiders at 2:13 to make it a 59-53 game.
A Brunson post up move and basket pushed the margin back to 61-53 with 1:47 on the clock. Two free throws from Paschall at 1:15 made it 63-53 before an Evans basket at 1:07 made it 63-55.
Two more clutch free throws from Bridges advanced the count to 65-57 before Texas Texas scored again at the one minute mark to make it 65-57. Two more swishes at the free throw line by DiVincenzo made it 67-57 at the 59.5 seconds mark.
Bridge’s netted two more free throws with just 50 seconds to go to put Villanova up by 12. A pair of successful free throws by Evans got Texas Tech on the board once again. Before the ball could be inbound Texas Tech fouled Brunson and he headed to the line for two. He netted both making the final 71-59.
Villanova will head to their sixth final four and two in the last three years. They will play the winner of Kansas Duke in San Antonio, Texas.
The 2017-18 Villanova Men’s Basketball season is presented by KeyBank.