PITTSBURGH — No 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed. That streak continued Thursday as Villanova raced past Lafayette 93-52. The Wildcats played a near-perfect opening half, scoring 49 points on 62.5 percent shooting from the field. Nova's encore in the second half? The Cats scored 44 points on 64.0 percent shooting.
Villanova whipped the ball around the perimeter with impressive poise and precision, picking apart the Lafayette defense each trip down the floor. It didn't matter if Lafayette played zone or man. Villanova assisted on 22 of its 36 field goals.
Meanwhile, Lafayette's prolific offensive attack that carried the Leopards to a surprising Patriot League title didn't make the five-hour road trip to the CONSOL Energy Center.
After sophomore point guard Nick Lindner lit the Patriot League on fire in the conference tourney, to the tune of 23.7 points and 5 assists per game, the senior point guard ended his season posting just 3 points on 1-3 shooting.
"Playing the No. 2 team in the nation we were a little nervous," Senior forward Seth Hinrichs said. "Credit them, they were a really good defensive team and they just got us out of a rhythm."
When basketball teams live and die by the three-pointer, it can create some tremendous fireworks. However that identity can often lead to a slow and painful death, as well. The Leopards managed to find open looks from downtown early and often, but converted on just 4-18 three-point attempts, or a poor 22.2 percent.
The Leopards entered the tournament the second-best team in three-point percentage at 41.3 percent.
"We knew we had to get off to a hot start," head coach Fran O'Hanlon said. "We got a few good looks at threes early on, but they just weren't falling."
At the conclusion of a long season, the Leopards are proud of their conference title and their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000 when Lafayette fell to Temple in the first round.
"Just thankful and grateful to be apart of it," Hinrichs said. "It's something we'll remember forever. Just to win the Patriot League championship and be able to represent our school has been awesome."
Senior center Dan Trist led the Leopards with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Hinrichs was right behind him with 13 points.