Glance at Villanova’s offensive numbers in a vacuum and it would be hard to believe those figures reflected a winning result.
But in a defensive slugfest between the No. 2 Wildcats and the fifth-seeded Houston Cougars, paltry sums felt more significant than they suggested. After 40 minutes, a lot of stops and seemingly more misses, Villanova emerged on top in a 50-44 win that will send it back to the Final Four.
Where to start? Naturally, at one.
That’s how many three-pointers Houston made all game. The Cougars missed their other 19 attempts, amounting to a 5 percent shooting rate from behind the arc. They shot 29.8 percent from the field.
For a game in which offensive struggles were expected, Houston’s proved fatal. Its top scorer, Taze Moore, produced a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. But he missed 15 of 21 shots to get there. Jamal Shead and Kyler Edwards, the other members of Houston’s starting backcourt, combined to make 5 of 25 shots, and made none of their 13 three-point attempts.
Villanova, for its part, didn’t win pretty. It was held well below its tournament scoring average (75.5 points in two games).
Jermaine Samuels, a freshman on the 2018 national championship team, carried the Wildcats with 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting, plus 10 rebounds that helped secure possession against a team that usually mauls opponents on the offensive boards. Caleb Daniels gave Villanova 12 points off the bench, though his shooting accuracy (25 percent) was more reflective of the team as a whole.
For its victory, Villanova will not advance unscathed. It lost second-leading scorer Justin Moore to an injury during the final minute of the game. His status moving forward is unclear.