Villanova shows full repertoire, holds off Texas Tech to advance to Final Four

This time, there was no second-half run. No offensive explosion that confirmed Villanova as the team to beat in the NCAA tournament. This time, there were 40 minutes that made exactly the same point. They just expressed that point differently.

They were 40 minutes of methodical, unspectacular superiority, and they sent the top-seeded Wildcats to the Final Four with a 71-59 victory over Texas Tech.

Two days after Villanova weathered a West Virginia storm with 1.64 points per possession over the final 11 minutes, it opened up its full repertoire to show just how thorough its excellence is. It battered Texas Tech on the boards. It clamped down on Keenan Evans and his running mates, and held Tech to 34 percent shooting from the field.

It effectively beat the Red Raiders at their own game. The East region’s No. 3 seed completed its best season in over two decades on the back of a top-five defense, one that locked opponents down in half-court sets. And to some extent, it did that against Villanova on Sunday. It held the Wildcats to a similarly lows shooting percentage and 4-of-24 from 3, well below their season averages.

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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)
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KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 21: Liam Broady of Great Britain plays a forehand against Bjorn Fratangelo of the United States in their first round match during the Miami Open Presented by Itau at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 21, 2018 in Key Biscayne, Florida. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: The Michigan Wolverines bench celebrates in the games final minutes against the Texas A&M Aggies 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)
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DETROIT, MI - MARCH 18: Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans shoots the ball against the Syracuse Orange in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Little Caesars Arena on March 18, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 16: Shaquille Morris #24 of the Wichita State Shockers goes up for a dunk against the Marshall Thundering Herd during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Viejas Arena on March 16, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 19: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Brooklyn Nets takes a shot against Briante Weber #3 of the Memphis Grizzlies in the fourth quarter during their game at Barclays Center on March 19, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 16: Robert Williams #44 of the Texas A&M Aggies dives for ball possession againt Kyron Cartwright #24 of the Providence Friars during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 16, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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But Nova’s own defense, which has improved significantly over the past month, was similarly excellent. It contested almost every Texas Tech shot at the rim. At one point in the second half, Nova had missed 10 of its past 11 shots from the field, but still led by double digits because its struggles to put the ball through the basket were emulated by Tech at the other end.

The Red Raiders, after trailing by at least 10 for the first nine minutes of the second half, pulled to within five points at the six-minute mark on a Brandone Francis 3. But Nova responded with a steal and a fast-break layup. Later, Eric Paschall grabbed one of Villanova’s 20 offensive rebounds and re-stretched the lead from the free throw line.

Tech never got to within one possession. Just as Villanova had in the first half against Alabama in the round of 32, defense ensured shooting woes wouldn’t be costly.

Villanova isn’t perfect. It has been plagued by those shooting woes sporadically throughout the season. And on some occasions, they have led to worrisome losses. In fact, a 19-for-57 afternoon very well could have led to a season-ending loss on another day.

That Villanova is moving on to the Final Four despite 20 missed 3s is a testament to the well-roundedness of the Big East champs. Few teams in college basketball have ever combined this type of toughness and discipline with this level of offensive efficiency. The Wildcats can win games with scoring. On Sunday they showed they can win games with defense and rebounding as well.

And they showed once again why they aren’t just headed to San Antonio to player either Duke or Kansas; they’re the favorite to win two games once they arrive.

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