SAN ANTONIO, Texas – In a game played to the style Houston wants, Villanova came away victorious 50-44 to punch its ticket to the Final Four for the third time in the last six NCAA Tournaments.
The Cougars, one of the best defensive teams in the country, allowed 59 points per game this season. In this contest, they limited the Wildcats to 28.8% shooting. Villanova is the first team since UCLA in 1971 to shoot below 30% in an Elite Eight win.
“If you would have told me before the game that we were going to hold them to 28% from the field, they’re going to shoot 23% from the 3-point line, and we lose, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Our kids guarded. Man, did we guard. I mean our defense was spot on. It’s not easy to hold a team with that kind of – [Collin] Gillespie and [Justin] Moore, [Jermaine] Saunders – everybody in their lineup can make a basket, but we held them to 50 points.
“But we had a lot of opportunities, they didn’t go in. That happens, and I’m disappointed we lost. We felt like this was a game we felt like we could win, not should win, could win.”
Houston made just one of its 20 3-point attempts. The Cougars missed four triple attempts in the final seconds to try to get back into the game. They went 9-for-20 from the deep in the Sweet 16 win over Arizona on Thursday. They shot 29.3% from the field against Villanova.
Trailing by double digits midway through the second half, Houston reeled off an 11-2 run to pull within two.
Taze Moore was the lone Cougar in double figures as he posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jamal Shead registered nine points. J’Wan Roberts amassed seven points and eight boards.
Samuels led the Wildcats with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Caleb Daniels tallied 12 points off the bench.
Houston’s hopes of back-to-back Final Four appearances ended one game short. The Cougars finished the season at 32-6. They won the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships.