Villanova surges past West Virginia to reach Elite Eight

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Villanova surges past West Virginia to reach Elite Eight

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BOSTON -- Villanova's 3-point party rolled past the intense pressure of West Virginia to bring the Wildcats to the doorstep of another Final Four two seasons after winning a national championship.

The top-seeded Wildcats continued their outside feast in the NCAA Tournament, downing the fifth-seeded Mountaineers 90-78 on Friday night to earn their second trip to the regional finals in three seasons.

Jalen Brunson led Villanova with 27 points and Omari Spellman had 18 with eight rebounds as Villanova overcame the West Virginia press by hitting 13 of 24 shots from 3-point range.

Daxter Miles had 16 points to lead West Virginia. Jevon Carter and Sagaba Konate added 12 each.

Villanova (33-4) has now made 44 3-pointers for the tournament. The outside barrage helped the Wildcats overcome 16 turnovers and played into their Sweet 16 plan for their opponents nicknamed "Press Virginia": Attack the stifling defense head-on.

"What a game, man. I hope that looked as good as it did from the bench, man," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "That was the most physically demanding, mentally draining 40 minutes we've played in a long time. They are so relentless."

The Wildcats struggled at times, especially in the first half, but dug out of a six-point hole in the second half with an 11-0 run.

The Mountaineers (26-11) stayed close throughout, ramping up the pressure and making Villanova play faster than it wanted to early. But foul trouble throughout the second half was too much for West Virginia to overcome after it gave up the lead.

Carter was called for his third with 17:33 left in the game. That was followed by Miles being whistled for his third and fourth fouls over a two minute stretch that sent him to the bench with 15 minutes remaining.

Coach Bob Huggins said the fouls "absolutely" stifled the Mountaineers' ability to keep pressure on Villanova.

"When the whistle keeps blowing it really takes away your aggression," he said.

West Virginia adjusted for a while, taking advantage of a more than three-minute Villanova scoring drought to take a 60-54 edge with just over 11 minutes left.

But Villanova heated up again. Its 11-point run was capped by a thunderous block and dunk on the other end by Omari Spellman that pushed the Wildcats back in front 65-60.

The Wildcats kept the momentum going, stretching the lead to 76-66 on a 3-pointer by Brunson.

"The deeper you go, the better the teams are going to be," Brunson said. "For us, most importantly, nothing changes no matter who we play, where we play, what time we play. We play every game like it's our last."

West Virginia never got closer than 4 points the rest of the way.

"I felt like we gave it everything we had," Carter said. "We just didn't make shots tonight and Villanova did."

Villanova led 44-42 at the half after a fast-paced opening 20 minutes. Brunson led all scorers with 16 points in the half, with West Virginia getting 11 points from Daxter Miles.

The Wildcats came out firing, connecting on their first seven field goals. They handled the Mountaineers' pressure well early. But the Wildcats had three turnovers over a 65-second stretch during an 8-0 Mountaineers run that put them in front 33-30.

Wright said he never lost faith in his team.

"I just looked at Jalen, Mikal (Bridges) and Phil (Booth) and I could see in their eyes we were good," he said.

Big picture
West Virginia: It's a tough loss for the Mountaineers, but it doesn't diminish the incredible effort by a senior class that reached the Sweet 16 three times in four years.

Villanova: The Wildcats are primed for another title run with their talent led by player of the year contender Brunson, the experience of the 2016 title and the lessons learned from early tournament departures in several years, including a second-round loss to Wisconsin last year.

Milestone watch
The Wildcats' 13 3-pointers give them 432 for the season, putting them 11 away from a Division I record. VMI hit 442 3-pointers in 2006-07.

No regrets
Despite the outcome, Carter said he is proud of his classmates' four-year run. Friday's game marked the 10th career NCAA Tournament game for Carter and Miles -- tying them for the most in school history.

Carter said the tournament will always mean a lot to both of them.

"It's everything. Everybody is in tune with March Madness. I feel like it's bigger than the NBA playoffs," he said. "Anything can happen in March. ... Unfortunately we lost in the Sweet 16."

Up next
Villanova will face Texas Tech in Sunday's regional final.

NCAA Tournament Wrap: West Virginia, Gonzaga advance to Sweet 16

NCAA Tournament Wrap: West Virginia, Gonzaga advance to Sweet 16

SALT LAKE CITY -- Top-seeded Gonzaga fought off a wild Northwestern comeback for a 79-73 victory Saturday night with help from an untimely technical foul on Wildcats coach Chris Collins.

Northwestern trimmed a 22-point deficit to five and had the ball when Gonzaga's Zach Collins reached up through the basket to reject Dererk Pardon's shot with 4:54 left.

There was no call, and Collins, jawing with the officials all day, ran onto the court and was slapped with a technical foul.

Nigel Williams-Goss made both free throws, and eighth-seeded Northwestern (24-12) -- in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history -- never got closer.

Williams-Goss led the Zags (34-1) with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Collins and Jordan Mathews had 14 points each.

Bryant McIntosh, who hit the go-ahead free throws in Northwestern's opening-round win, had 20 for the Wildcats and Vic Law had 18 (see full recap).

West Virginia beats Notre Dame to advance to Sweet 16
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jevon Carter scored 24 points, and West Virginia is headed to the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2010 following a 83-71 win over Notre Dame.

Tarik Phillip added 12 points and Esa Ahmad had nine rebounds for the Mountaineers (28-8), the West region's fourth-seeded team.

Notre Dame's Bonzie Colson hit 10 of 15 shots, scored 27 points and had eight rebounds. The fifth-seeded Fighting Irish (26-10) were stopped from making their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance after entering the tournament as the only school to reach each of the past two Elite Eight rounds.

Carter ended the game by bouncing the ball untouched atop the Fighting Irish key and then slamming it emphatically to the court as the final buzzer sounded, ending a matchup of former Big East rivals.

After trailing 68-58 with just under 5 minutes left, the Fighting Irish made one last run, cutting the lead to 72-66 on Matt Ryan's 3-pointer from the right corner with 3:06 remaining.

Carter then countered on West Virginia's next possession by hitting a fall-away 3-pointer from the left wing (see full recap).

No. 11 Xavier upsets No. 3 FSU, 91-66, in second round
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Trevon Bluiett scored 29 points and Kaiser Gates came off the bench to contribute 14 as the 11 seed Xavier pulled off its second upset of the NCAA Tournament with a 91-66 victory over third-seeded Florida State during Saturday's second round.

The Musketeers (23-13) advance to the West Region semifinal marking the second time in two years and the eighth time in program history they have made it to the Sweet 16. The Seminoles, the ACC runners-up, end their season at 26-9.

Florida State was the bigger program from a power conference, but Xavier came in as a tournament tested team and it showed. The Musketeers dominated the bigger and more athletic Seminoles inside and then put the game out of reach with their superior 3-point shooting.

Xavier shot nearly 65 percent from 3-point range, converting 11 of 17 from long range, while the Seminoles made just four of 21 3-point attempts for the game. The Seminoles, who figured to have the size advantage inside with 7-foot-1 Michael Ojo and 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje protecting the rim, were outscored in the paint 36-26.

Xavier, which defeated No. 6 Maryland in the first round, shot 55.6 from the field for the game and led by as many as 25 points late in the second half.

Dwayne Bacon led the Seminoles with 20 points (see full recap).

Markkanen, Trier lead Arizona to 69-60 win over Saint Mary's
Salt Lake City -- Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier combined for 30 points and No. 2-seeded Arizona rallied to defeat No. 7 Saint Mary's 69-60 and advance to the West Regional's Sweet Sixteen on Saturday night.

The Wildcats were on the ropes in the first half, but found life in the second half to pull away for the win.

The teams went back and forth in the second 20 minutes until Arizona went on an 11-2 run sparked by Trier, who took over the second half. He scored nine of those 11 points during the stretch with a dribble-drive layup, midrange jumpers and a 3-pointer. The run gave the Wildcats a 55-48 lead and Saint Mary's never led again.

Arizona shot 59.1 percent from the field in the second half.

Markkanen finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Trier scored 14.

Jock Landale battled with Markkanen throughout and had his 17th double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Gaels. Teammate Calvin Hermanson added 14 points (see full recap).

Swanigan powers Purdue past Iowa State
MILWAUKEE -- Caleb Swanigan had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Purdue reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven years with a wild 80-76 victory over Iowa State on Saturday night.

The Cyclones erased a 19-point deficit in the second half, taking their first lead of the game on Deonte Burton's two free throws with 3:11 left. But P.J. Thompson responded with a critical 3-pointer for the Boilermakers, and Swanigan made several huge plays in the final minutes.

After Dakota Mathias missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 11 seconds left and Purdue clinging to a 78-76 lead, Swanigan tracked down the rebound to set up Thompson's free throws with 7 seconds remaining. Monte Morris missed a 3 on the other end, and time ran out for Iowa State.

Vince Edwards had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Purdue (27-7), and Isaac Haas finished with 14 points (see full recap).

Florida routs Virginia to move on to Sweet 16
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Devin Robinson had 14 points and 11 rebounds, the fifth double-double of his career, and No. 4 seed Florida handled fifth-seeded Virginia 65-39 on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Justin Leon added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Gators (26-8), who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the 11th time in school history and fifth in the last seven years. They will play No. 8 seed Wisconsin in the East Regional in New York City on Friday.

They can thank stingy defense and a ridiculous run spanning halftime for this trip to Madison Square Garden.

Florida held Virginia (23-11) to a season-low 17 points in the first half and 30.2 percent shooting on the night. The turning point came late in the first half, when the Gators started a 21-0 run that was their most lopsided of the season (see full recap).

Sweet again: Butler beats MTSU, gets back to NCAA regionals
MILWAUKEE -- Kelan Martin scored 19 points, and Butler limited Middle Tennessee's athletic scorers with smothering defense in a 74-65 victory Saturday night to advance to the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals.

The Bulldogs (25-8) are going to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011, when they wrapped up back-to-back appearances in the national title game.

Andrew Chrabascz added 15 points for fourth-seeded Butler, including a 3 with 3:25 left that snapped a 7-0 run for Middle Tennessee to get the lead back to 62-56.

The senior forward played an even more important role in leading a sterling defensive effort for the Bulldogs.

Conference USA player of the year JaCorey Williams finished with 20 points, but had to work hard for nearly every bucket for No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee (31-5).

Giddy Potts, who averaged nearly 16 points a game this year, was held scoreless, going 0 of 8 from the field (see full recap).

Villanova NCAA Tournament Notes: Wright's fashion faceoff with Huggins

Villanova NCAA Tournament Notes: Wright's fashion faceoff with Huggins

Printable bracket with game times

East Region | West Region | Midwest Region | South Region

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It's the NCAA Tournament, so a little smack talk is in order.
 
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins started things off Wednesday during his press conference at KeyBank Center, taking aim at Villanova coach Jay Wright.
 
"I keep telling him, if I'd lose a little bit of weight, he'd be the second-best looking coach out there," Huggins said.
 
OK, so maybe it's not exactly bulletin board material for the Wildcats, who will begin defense of their national championship Thursday night against 16th-seeded Mount St. Mary's (see story).
 
Huggins, who will lead his team against Bucknell, dished on his relationship with Wright.
 
"I think he's a heck of a coach," he said. "We had just great games when we were both in the Big East."
 
The topic eventually turned to fashion, and Huggins explained how it came to be that he is known for wearing a pullover during games. The short story is that he sweated through a suit and tie one game so badly he needed to change at halftime.
 
That led to Wright being asked about his fashion sense.
 
"The reason that I dress that way, it's just been the tradition, you know, in coaching you wear a suit and tie," he said. "But Hugs is -- I would like to do an article on the lines Hugs gives me before the game when you shake hands about your attire, his attire, your look, his look. It's great. It could fill an article.
 
"I like Hugs' look. When you wear a nice suit and you're in the huddle and they're sweating on your suit, the guys are dripping on top of you. I'm thinking, 'Why am I wearing this nice suit?' But it's tradition."
 
Battling old memories in Buffalo
Buffalo hasn't made the best impression on Josh Hart.
 
The Wildcats' senior guard was part of the Villanova team that lost as a No. 2 seed to UConn in 2014. The Huskies went on to win the national championship that year.
 
"I remember that one vividly," Hart said. "Shabazz Napier, that UConn team, they were tough and talented, but we try not to think about that too much now.
 
"Obviously, you know, we knew we were playing in Buffalo. That was the first thing. When we heard Buffalo, we were like, 'We went there freshman year. We had a tough game against UConn there.' But now, we don't really think about it. I think the only time we thought about it was the first time we heard we were probably going to be going to Buffalo. And it was like, 'Oh, Buffalo.'"
 
Hart and his teammates arrived in western New York Monday in an effort to beat a snowstorm that hit much of the East Coast. The weather in Buffalo has been pretty much what you might expect -- snowy.
 
"I thought I'd get to see the sun," Hart said. "I hope that's not what it's like up here all 365 days. I mean, I like the warm weather, so I don't want to say go back home because I think it's snowing in Philly, too. We just got to tough through it the last couple weeks and put up with the weather. So I guess you could say we feel like Buffalonians."
 
The Wildcats holed up inside their team hotel Monday night.
 
"We watched a movie together. That was really about it," Hart said. "I wish I could tell you we had like this epic snowball fight and it was amazing. But, no, not really. We've just been in our rooms, just relaxing, taking our mind off the tournament, and just enjoying each other's company."

Know your foe
The Wildcats gathered as a team Tuesday night to watch Mount St. Mary's victory.
 
Senior forward Darryl Reynolds came away impressed with what he saw.
 
"They're a good team," he said. "They're a good team like every team in this tournament. They play fast, they seem to play hard. They're disciplined in their coaching."
 
After he was done responding, Reynolds moved toward the microphone and said, "Sorry if I wasn't talking loud enough. I just realized I could have leaned a little bit forward. … I'm sitting here whispering. I'm sorry about that."
 
"You're coachable. Good work," the press conference's moderator replied.
 
One shining moment
Get ready to see arguably the greatest moment in Villanova history on repeat.
 
Kris Jenkins' game-winning three-pointer in the national championship game against North Carolina last year immediately became one of the iconic plays in college basketball. Jenkins, however, insisted again Wednesday that it's just that to him -- history.
 
"I don't even think about it," he said. "I talk about it when I'm asked about it. It wasn't hard for me because I still have a lot that I want to accomplish. I'm a part of this great team with these great guys and the guys in the locker room. So, when you have guys around you like that, it's easy to refocus."

That ability has amazed Wright.
 
"He's a confident, cocky -- in a good way -- kid," the coach said. "We talked about it right after the season. And he's real bright. He's really bright. When we talked about, 'You still got a year left, you want to get better, you got this for the rest of your life.' He right away internalizes that."
 
Wright has specifically watched Jenkins during practice to see if there is ever a moment he lets his guard down.
 
"When the guys do shooting drills at the end of practice or they're doing competitions, you would think one time it would slip, 'I hit the big shot,'" Wright said. "I've never ever, ever seen him mention it ever, and it's really impressive."