Villanova, the No. 2 seed in the South Regional, had little trouble with No. 15 seed UNC-Asheville, torching the Bulldogs in the second half to reach the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
Leading by just two with less than five minutes remaining in the first half on Friday, Villanova hit four three-pointers as part of an 18-4 run before the break to open up a 14-point lead over UNC Asheville, then cruised to an 86-56 win in Brooklyn. Senior forward Daniel Ochefu led the second-seeded Wildcats with 17 points and 10 rebounds in a strong effort, while senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono chipped in 14 on 4 of 6 three-point shooting. As a team, Villanova shot 56.9% from the floor and forced the 15th-seeded Bulldogs into 14 turnovers.
Why it matters
Despite its low seed, UNC Asheville entered this tournament as one of the nation's top 10 teams in defensive three-point percentage, steal percentage and defensive turnover percentage. That provided to be a good test for the talented Wildcats, who shot 44.8% from three, committed just 11 turnovers and allowed only five steals.
Another encouraging sign for Villanova was the play of Ochefu, a 6'11" senior who has been dealing with a lingering right ankle injury. His 17 points were the most he'd had in a game since Feb. 27, and he did not seem to be bothered or limited by his ankle. After the Big East tournament, coach Jay Wright had said Ochefu hadn’t dunked in “three or four games,” but the big man even did that on Friday.
Villanova will play the winner of No. 7 Iowa against No. 10 Temple on Sunday, looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since reaching the Final Four in 2009.