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.
See the best sports photos of the week:
Sports photos of the week: March 16 - March 23
Sports photos of the week: March 16 - March 23
NEWBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 23: Jeremiah McGrath falls from Wallace Spirit in The Be Wiser Insurance Novices' Hurdle Race at Newbury racecourse on March 23, 2018 in Newbury, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Terance Mann #14 of the Florida State Seminoles goes up for a shot against Corey Kispert #24 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs 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)
Mar 16, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Texas Longhorns guard Kerwin Roach II (12) dunks against Nevada Wolf Pack forward Caleb Martin (10) during the second half in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro perform during the Pairs Free Skate program at the Milano World League Figure Skating Championship 2018 in Milan on March 22, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
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)
Soccer Football - Premier League - Stoke City vs Everton - bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Britain - March 17, 2018 Stoke City's Papa Ndiaye attempts to block a shot from Everton's Yannick Bolasie REUTERS/Dylan Martinez EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 21: Marcel Nguyen of Germany competes on the Pommel Horse during day one of the 2018 Gymnastics World Cup at Arena Birmingham on March 21, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Czech Republic's Anna Duskova and Martin Bidar perform on March 21, 2018 in Milan during the Pairs figure skating short program at the Milano World Figure Skating Championship 2018.
/ AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
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)
TAMPA, FL - MARCH 18: Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees slides into first base in the first inning during the spring training game between the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 18, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 21: Serena Williams looks on between games against Naomi Osaka of Japan during Day 3 of the Miami Open at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 19, 2018 in Key Biscayne, Florida. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 21: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Brooklyn Nets blocks a shot by Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets in the first quarter during their game at Barclays Center on March 21, 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)
CAMPRODON, SPAIN - MARCH 21: Arrival / Thomas De Gendt and Team Lotto Soudal / Celebration / during the 98th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2018, Stage 3 a 153km stage from Sant Cugat Del Valles to Camprodon 956m on March 21, 2018 in Camprodon, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MARCH 20: Gustaf Wesslau of Koelner Haie pauses prior Koelner Haie and Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers DEL Playoffs Quarter Final Game 4 at Lanxess Arena on March 20, 2018 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)
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)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 18: Cheick Diallo #13 of the New Orleans Pelicans dunks the ball during the second half against the Boston Celtics at the Smoothie King Center on March 18, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 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 Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18: Leroy George of the Victory bites the ear of Christian Theoharous of the Victory after he scored a goal during the round 23 A-League match between the Melbourne Victory and the Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park on March 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
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)
Mar 17, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) blocks a shot by Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the first quarter at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 18: The Nevada Wolf Pack celebrate after defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats in the second round of the 2018 Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
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.