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There’s just something about a Jay Wright coached team in March.
After seemingly flying under the radar through majority of the 2021-22 season, Wright and Villanova find themselves in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. The No. 2 seeded Wildcats (30-7) became the first team to clinch a trip to New Orleans next Saturday, defeating No. 5 seed Houston (32-6) 50-44 in the Elite 8 of the South region Saturday in San Antonio.
Villanova will be making its third Final Four appearance in the last six seasons, looking to join the 2016 and 2018 squads as National Champions. The Cougars made them work for it, holding the Wildcats to just 28.8% shooting from the field and 23.8% from behind the arc.
Senior guard Collin Gillespie, who came into the game averaging a team-leading 15.9 PPG, was held to just six points on 1-of-6 shooting with five rebounds and one assist. It was just the fifth time this season that Gillespie was held to single digits.
With Gillespie not at his best, the Wildcats leaned on the play of senior forward Jermaine Samuels. Coming off his 22-point, seven-rebound performance against No. 11 Michigan in the Sweet 16 Thursday, Samuels put up 16 with 10 boards and was arguably the best player on the court for the Wildcats.
The Cougars trailed throughout and never held the lead, much to do with their inability to connect from downtown. Houston picked the worst night to have perhaps its worst shooting night of the season, converting on just one three-point attempt and missing 19.
Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson searched for scoring all night, but seldom found it. Like Gillespie, Houston’s leading-scorer in senior guard Kyler Edwards had a tough night from the field. Averaging 14.1 PPG coming into Saturday, Edwards shot 1-of-12 with fours across the board in points, rebounds and assists. Senior guard Taze Moore chipped in with a team-leading 15 points, but shot just 6-of-21 overall with 10 rebounds.
Villanova will await the winner No. 10 Miami (26-10) vs. No. 1 Kansas (31-6) in the Elite 8 of the Midwest region. Tipoff is scheduled for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET in Chicago on CBS.
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