The nation’s top scoring offensive exacted its toll against West Virginia Friday night in Boston.
Villanova sliced through the Wildcats for 63.6 percent 3-point shooting in the second half to claim a 90-78 victory in the East Region semifinals. It ended the Mountaineers’ season.
After starting off cold early in the second half, the Wildcats finished by hitting 10 of 14 shots to punctuate the victory. Villanova started the half missing 7 of their first 8 shots, including 7 straight before the surge started.
The Wildcats boost their record to 33-4. West Virginia finishes at 26-11.
3 who mattered
- Dax Miles Jr.: His outside shooting was big early, but he struggled in foul trouble before fouling out with 2:12 left. Miles finished with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting in 24 minutes.
- Jevon Carter: In the final game of his career, Carter finished with 12 points, but struggled with 5-of-16 shooting. He also contributed 8 assists and 3 steals in what will go down in history as one of the greatest careers in West Virginia history.
- Jalen Brunson: Villanova’s Player of the Year candidate lived up to his billing as he scored a game-high 27 points in 37 minutes.
The turning point
Villanova erupted on a 19-4 run midway through the second half to take control of the game. West Virginia took its largest lead at 60-54 on Carter’s layup with 11:08 left in the game. The Wildcats proceeded to hit 7 of its next 9 shots including 4 3-pointers and never looked back.
- Sagaba Konate had a great start, but made a misguided play midway in the first half when he started yapping at Villanova players in their huddle, joining them for a few moments on their side of the court. He then made it worse when he missed both shots. Huggins made a smart move by taking him out at the next possession change as Konate’s temper was volatile all night long.
- Play destined for the One Shining Moment video: Konate’s two-handed blocked shot at the rim of Bridges’ dunk attempt with about 14 minutes left.
- Two of the best foul shooting teams in the nation. Villanova ranks 17th at 77.4 percent. West Virginia was 24th with a school-record 76.7 percent from the line. But the Wildcats won the battle from the foul line, getting into the bonus early in the second half and making West Virginia pay. Villanova finished at 85.2 percent and West Virginia was 73.9 percent.
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Villanova blistered the Mountainers for 13 3-pointers on 54.2 percent shooting beyond the arc. In the tournament, the Wildcats have sank 44 shots from beyond the arc. It’s the most in a 3-game period this season.
What’s next for West Virginia basketball
The Mountaineers’ season ends at the Sweet 16 round for the third time in the last four seasons.
Huggins will have to rebuild without Carter and Miles, the most experienced backcourt in school history. Starters Esa Ahmad, Wesley Harris and Konate are back and James “Beetle” Bolden is poised to grow into a likely starting role.
West Virginia is set for a strong recruiting class with the arrival of two 4-star recruits in point guard Jordan McCabe of Kaukauna, Wisc., and power forward Derek Culver of Brewster Academy among others.
It looks like the Mountaineers are positioned to continue challenging and perhaps win their elusive first Big 12 title.
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