Villanova takes West Virginia's best shot, proves why it's a national title favorite

It was, as Jay Wright said at halftime, “complete chaos.” And that’s why it was the most impressive win of the 2018 NCAA tournament so far.

Top-seeded Villanova took West Virginia’s best shot on Friday night in the Sweet 16. But it took down the fifth-seeded Mountaineers, 90-78, with an irrepressible second-half run that showed just why the Wildcats are national title favorites.

It was a 22-6 run by the time it had turned a six-point deficit into a 10-point Villanova lead. And it was, for a long time, difficult to foresee. Press Virginia had taken the Wildcats’ high-powered offense out of sync for around 29 minutes. But that high-powered offense then showed why it’s the nation’s best. It scored 29 points in eight-and-a-half minutes, and 36 over the final 11 minutes of the game, to send Nova to the Elite Eight.

See the best photos from the Sweet 16:

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The best photos from the Sweet 16
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Cody Martin #11 of the Nevada Wolf Pack falls after saving the ball with a pass to Caleb Martin #10 in the second half against the Loyola Ramblers during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes up with the ball against Amaad Wainright #23 and Makol Mawien #14 of the Kansas State Wildcats in the second half during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Charles Matthews #1 of the Michigan Wolverines drives on DJ Hogg #1 of the Texas A&M Aggies in the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Jordan Caroline #24 of the Nevada Wolf Pack and Lucas Williamson #1 of the Loyola Ramblers battle for the rebound during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Loyola Ramblers defeated the Nevada Wolf Pack 69-68. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Terance Mann #14 of the Florida State Seminoles goes up for a shot against Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Jarred Vanderbilt #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats calls a timeout late in the second half against Kevin Knox #5 and PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Josh Perkins #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs reacts after being fouled in the first half agaisnt the Florida State Seminoles in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Marques Townes #5 of the Loyola Ramblers reacts after making a late three point basket in the second half against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman #12 of the Michigan Wolverines goes up for a shot against Tyler Davis #34 of the Texas A&M Aggies in the first half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Justin Gray #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders dunks the ball during the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats shoots the ball during the second half against Esa Ahmad #23 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Sagaba Konate #50 of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts on the bench during the second half against the Villanova Wildcats in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats handles the ball against Cartier Diarra #2 of the Kansas State Wildcats in the first half during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The “complete chaos,” as Wright told TBS at halftime, was mostly in the first half. There was chippiness. West Virginia’s press, and its combativeness, had Villanova stumbling. The Wildcats, typically as secure with the ball as any in the nation, turned the ball over nine times in the first 20 minutes. Freshman guard Collin Gillespie in particular looked overwhelmed.

But Villanova was also hitting its shots. It made its first six from the field. Jalen Brunson, despite being hounded by Jevon Carter, had 16 points in the first half. Both Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. had picked up their third fouls early in the second half. Miles ended up fouling out.

The Wildcats, however, went cold early in the second period. After Eric Paschall’s 3-pointer to open the half, they missed 10 of their next 11 shots. They continued to be plagued by turnovers. And West Virginia turned a five-point deficit into a six-point lead. The highlight was Sagaba Konate’s two-handed stuff of a Mikal Bridges dunk attempt:

Brunson, though, brought the Wildcats back. He scored four points himself, then picked up a loose ball, led the break, and set up Bridges for a go-ahead 3.

Omari Spellman then emphatically kept the Nova run going with a block on one end and a thunderous put-back slam on the other.

Paschall later got Konate back for his block on Bridges with another monstrous dunk to put Villanova up nine:

Villanova’s offense, on the back of Brunson, was darn near unstoppable over the final 11 minutes of the game. The junior guard had 27 points on 15 shots. And he was the stabilizing presence that enabled Nova to overcome West Virginia and advance to take on either Purdue or Texas Tech.

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