The Wildcats held off a second-half push from Houston to advance to their third Final Four in the last six men’s NCAA tournaments with a 50-44 win over the Cougars.
Villanova took the lead throughout the game and took the lead comfortably for most of the second half. Houston cut Villanova’s lead to 42-40 before a big basket by guard Collin Gillespie restored the lead to four with 5:04 remaining.
Gillespie has been a rock for the Wildcats throughout the season and especially in the NCAA tournaments. He played clutch games whenever Villanova needed him. He had a quiet night on Saturday with just six points, but that basket and a few free throws in under 26 seconds essentially snuffed out any chance Houston had for a comeback.
Villanova suffered a potentially heavy loss with less than a minute remaining when Justin Moore came down with a lower right foot injury that appeared as he tried to aim in the basket. Moore fell to the floor because something had slipped off his right leg and he had to be helped onto the Villanova bench as he struggled to put the weight on his leg.
Neither team shot well from the court, though that was an expected occurrence for a game that featured two of the best defensive teams in college basketball. Both teams entered the game delivering less than 63 points per game and their defensive reputation played as promised with the officials letting both teams play physically.
Villanova shot only 29% from the field while Houston only 33% from the field. However, the Wildcats performed perfectly from the free throw line. Villanova is 15-of-15 on the line while Houston is 9-of-14.
Cougars are also bad from behind the arc. Houston is 1-of-20 out of three. Yes, 1-of-20. Only three of the game came with 16:14 to go when Taze Moore hit three to cut Villanova’s lead to seven. The result came on Houston’s 10th 3-point attempt of the night. The Cougars missed their last 10 games as they couldn’t draw even with the Wildcats.
Moore’s injury looks big
If Moore’s injury is serious, Villanova faces a major challenge in the Final Four against Kansas or Miami. Moore is the team’s second top scorer behind Gillespie in a Wildcats team that has only played six goals and has been very healthy all season.
Gillespie, Moore, Jermaine Samuels, Eric Dixon and Brandon Slater have all missed a combined game all season, while sixth man Caleb Daniels has missed just three. If Moore is out for the Final Four – and his injury doesn’t look minor – then Villanova will need someone from outside the rotation to step up.
No one other than six players is averaging more than 10 minutes per game. Chris Arcidiacono could be on course for a bigger role and will be counted on to score more than he has. Junior averaged only 1.7 points in 9.8 minutes per game in 34 games. If Daniels breaks into the starting lineup in place of Moore, Arcidiacono could become the first keeper from the bench.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – MARCH 26: Collin Gillespie #2 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts during the second half against the Houston Cougars in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Elite 8 Round at the AT&T Center on March 26, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – MARCH 26: Collin Gillespie #2 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts during the second half against the Houston Cougars in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Elite 8 Round at AT&T Center on March 26, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – MARCH 26: Collin Gillespie #2 of the Villanova Wildcats
Houston falls short of back-to-back Final Fours
Houston ends the season at 32-6 and a win short of a second consecutive Final Four appearance.
The Cougars got to the Elite Eight thanks to stifling defense and defended well enough to get to another Final Four. But the lack of a go-to scorer was apparent against a tough Villanova team. That go-to scorer was Marcus Sasser, but he suffered a season-ending foot injury in December after averaging 18 points per game to begin the season.
Taze Moore led Houston with 15 points and no other Cougars player reached double figures. Kyler Edwards was 0-of-8 from three while Jamal Shead was 0-of-5.