Villanova vs. Houston score, takeaway: Wildcats rely on defense to stifle Cougars, advance to Final Four

The No. 2 seed Villanova became the first team in the 2022 NCAA Tournament to earn a ticket to this year’s Final Four. The Wildcats, a slight underdog of No. 5 seed Houston, went wire to wire for victory over the Cougars on Saturday, advancing to March Madness’ final weekend with a 50-44 win.

In a matchup between two effective top-10 teams, the Wildcats prevailed by winning in a way they don’t often do: with their defense. They held the scorching Cougars, who knocked out No. 1 seed Arizona in the Sweet 16, to 1 of 20 3-pointers and 17 of 58 shots from the floor. It was Houston’s worst shooting performance on the court since the 2013-14 season and its worst 3-point mark in more than a decade, according to College Basketball Reference.

“They played hard. It was tough to score for both teams,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said in a post-match interview. “That’s what a good defense is. They were good defensively, we were good defensively.”

Villanova became the first No. 2 seed to beat a No. 5 seed in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. Jermaine Samuels again played for the Wildcats with a team-high 16 points, while Caleb Daniels – the only other double-digit Nova player – added 12 points. Senior guard Collin Gillespie had just six points.

Villanova will face the Midwest Region winner in next week’s Final Four, where they await the winner of No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 10 seed Miami. Here are some takeaways from Saturday’s game.

1. Defense, Defense, Defense

Houston averaged more than 75 points per game heading into Saturday. Villanova averaged just under 73 per game. The two teams couldn’t even muster a combined 100, however, in a defensive slog. If you had the least, which landed at 127, you were right to celebrate early.

“If you had told me before the game that we were going to limit them to 28% shooting from the field and 23% from the 3-point line, and that we would lose, I would not have believed you. said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson. “Our kids kept. Man, did they keep. Our defense was perfect. We held them to 50 points. We had a lot of chances, and they didn’t come in. It happens.”

Villanova’s 50 points were the lowest in a game since 2018. Houston’s 44 points were the lowest in a game since 2015. So, in March Madness fashion, the two most efficient offensive teams in the NCAA Tournament of this year have faced off on defense, producing the lowest-rated tournament game of all the playoffs.

2. Nova’s Sustained Greatness

Villanova’s win over Houston gave the program its fourth Final Four appearance since 2009 and its third (!) in the past six tournaments. The last two times he’s gone this far, he’s gone and won it all.

The fork is decidedly trickier this time around — No. 1 seed Kansas can wait for the Wildcats in the next round — but they can absolutely finish the job like they did the previous two times. This team doesn’t have the best depth, nor the best front yard. However, he has experience, roster versatility, an elite head coach and a March star in Jermaine Samuels.

3. Key Wound for Nova

In the final minute of action as Villanova closed out the game, Justin Moore, the team’s second leading scorer, reportedly injured his leg and did not return to the game. The severity of the injury is unknown, but the reaction here…well, it’s not crazy to think he could be out for the rest of the tournament. Wright speculated after the game that Moore’s prediction was “probably not good.”

If Moore can’t go, it would be a blow to a Villanova team that lacks the depth it has had in previous years. Only seven Wildcats entered the game on Saturday and one of them played three minutes. Something to watch ahead of next week’s Final Four with a clash against the tournament’s only remaining No. 1 seed potentially pending.