Coming into the NCAA tournament, many people were skeptical of Villanova receiving a two seed, especially after they were bounced from the Big East tournament by Seton Hall in their first game. Villanova proved those people right Saturday, as they were handled, with relative ease, by former Big East rival and seventh seeded Connecticut, 77-65.
Villanova had plenty of chances to put the Huskies away, but were unable to take advantage. The best opportunity came about 12 minutes into the first half, when Connecticut’s best player, Shabazz Napier, was forced to the bench with two fouls. UCONN would be without their best player for the final 12:09 of the first half, yet Villanova could not make anything of the opportunity presented to them. After pushing the lead to 10, Villanova allowed the Huskies to reel off a 16-1 run, and take a 25-24 lead into halftime.
Villanova’s defense had no answer for Napier while he was on the court. Napier, who struggled against Villanova throughout his career scoring 10 points in three previous games combined, dominated from all over the court. He would finish the game with 25 points on 9-13 from the field, including 4-8 from the three point line and 3-4 from the foul line.
The bench for Villanova did not show up as they did in the Round of 64 game either, as they managed only five points Saturday after scoring 26 Thursday. On the contrary, Connecticut’s bench scored 25 points tonight, led by Lasan Kromah with 12 and Terrence Samuel with 11. Samuel had only scored 45 points the whole season before tonight.
Villanova also failed to take advantage of the size difference they possessed over Connecticut. The Wildcats attempted an absurd 31 three pointers in the game, making only 11. When they did attempt to take it inside against the Huskies, they were ineffective, shooting 5-20 inside the arc.
In the end, the difference was Napier. Villanova does not have a player on their roster who can take over a game offensively like he can. Instead of feeding off of a player’s emotion like UCONN did with Napier, Villanova was left hoisting three pointers, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. They also did not have a player step up like Kromah or Samuel, who both scored well above their season averages. Villanova failed to prove anyone wrong that said they were unworthy of the seed they received, as they are the highest seeded team going home this weekend.