Villanova moves one step closer to first goal with beatdown on Lafayette
All day long, Villanova had watched its higher-seeded brethren fall by the wayside. Site by site, game by game around the country, the top seeds went down. Notice was being served and the Wildcats—the East Region's top-seeded team—was on high alert. No 16-seed has ever beaten a No. 1 and Villanova certainly didn't want to be the first.
No worries there.
Lafayette's upset bid lasted all of about, oh, three and a half minutes before Villanova extinguished that thought. By the end of the night, it was a 93-52 romp for the Wildcats, one opponent off the board as they march for a second Final Four appearance in six seasons.
Villanova's win though wasn't just about avoiding the upset or beating an in-state neighbor coached by one of the program's best players—Fran O'Hanlon—it was about getting that win. Despite amassing gaudy win totals the last few seasons, the Wildcats have had little to show for it come March. Until this week, it hadn't won a Big East tournament championship in 20 years or reached the Sweet 16 since that memorable 2009 run to the Final Four.
Beating the pulp out of an overmatched Lafayette team won't change that, but it is one more game that gets to be crossed off the list.
The formula was the same: Stellar guard play, three-point shooting, aggressive rebounding. Villanova did all of that against the Leopards, all while holding the Patriot League champions to just 40.9% shooting from the floor in the first half. The Wildcats? They were white-hot once again, shooting 62.5% by halftime and connecting on six of their 12 three-point attempts.
And get this: Jay Wright's team struggled to contain Lafayette's leading scorer, senior Dan Trist.
Trist had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half, before finishing with 18 for the game. Seth Hinrichs added 13 points.
For as good as Villanova was in the first half, it flexed its muscle in the second half, blowing past Lafayette.
A total of six Wildcat players—led by guard Dylan Ennis' 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting—paced Villanova. Center Daniel Ochefu scored 14 points to go with nine rebounds; Ryan Arcidiacono added 13 points, while JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard II pitched in 12 points a piece.
The blowout became so pronounced that even when calling off the attack, Villanova was still able to pump the lead up to over 40 points with only a few minutes remaining in the game.
Again, this win wasn't about Villanova's ability to demolish a first-round opponent or to avoid an upset where other top seeds failed to yesterday. This was about a larger goal, something that the Wildcats haven't been able to attain since that surprise run to the Final Four six years ago.
One step down, one to go.