NCAAB

March Madness: Sweet 16 Action at TD Garden

Before a packed house at TD Garden, the NCAA brought the Sweet 16 to Boston. The first game pitted the Number one seeded Villanova Wildcats vs the West Virginia Mountaineers. As has been the case throughout this year’s event, guard play would be key to winning or losing.

West Virginia was looking to up-tempo the game by pressuring the Wildcats backcourt into making mistakes that would lead to easy transition baskets. Nova, on the other hand, was looking to open the floor up by knocking down shots, especially from three-point land.

The first half was back and forth as the Mountaineers guards had success in forcing Villanova turnovers. They had nine for the half, and when the Wildcats were not turning the ball over, they were getting good looks at the baskets. They shot over 52% (15-for-29), and %46 from three, 6-13.

For West Virginia, they were good from the field at 48%, 15-31, while from deep they were only 4-14, 28%. They did outrebound the Wildcats by four 18 to 14, and force Wildcats head coach Jay Wright to make an adjustment on the court because of foul trouble to one of his guards, Donte DiVincenzo who picked up three first-half fouls.

The half featured six ties and four lead changes. Villanova’s biggest advantage came early in the half, at 12-5 on a three-point bomb by Mikal Bridges at the 16:59 mark. West Virginia’s biggest lead came late on a layup in the paint by Lamont West. It gave the Mountaineers a 33-30 lead with five minutes remaining in the half.

The Wildcats would take a lead with them to the locker room at 44-42, thanks to a three-point make by Eric Paschall. As expected, two guards would lead their team in scoring in the half, Jalen Brunson for Villanova with 16 points, and for West Virginia Daxter Miles with 11 first-half points.

The second half saw the number one seeded Wildcats start to take control of the basketball game. That taking over would not take place until the contest was tied twice more. The last time on two fouls shots by Nova Brunson, who finished with a game-high 27 points.

At 60-60, it would be the last time the Mountaineers would be within striking distance of the Wildcats. Villanova would create a double-digit lead for themselves on a Brunson three-pointer, 76-66 with five and a half to play. Their biggest lead was twelve on three separate occasions, the last time at 90-78 on Bridges fouls shots. He had 16 points on the night.

Villanova got a big game from redshirt freshman Omar Spellman who dropped 18 points and was a force in the paint with eight rebounds and three blocks. Eric Paschall chipped in with 14.

For West Virginia, they finished the game with five players in double figures. They were led by Daxter Miles with 16 on the night. The Mountaineers did outscore the Wildcats from the bench, 27-9, and outrebounded their opponent by three, 39 to 36.

In the end, it was not enough to stop Villanova from reaching the Elite eight with a 90-78 victory.

The second game matched the Purdue Boilermakers against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The early story in this one was that Purdue Center Isaac Haas would not start the game. Haas suffer an injury to his right elbow during play in the opening weekend of the tournament. How much he would or could play was a big question mark.

The first half was in sharp contrast to the first game, as both Purdue and Texas Tech had difficulty putting the ball through the hoop. The two teams would both shoot in the mid-40% range for the half. Purdue at 46%, Texas Tech at 43%. The only run of any meaning took place late in the half. The Red Raiders went on a 15-0 run, to wipe out a five-point deficit and turn it into a five-point lead at the half at 30-25.

The run was fueled by five points from Niem Stevenson including a three-pointer, and four points on back to back jumpers from Justin Grey. The Red Raiders went to the locker room up 30-25.

The Boilermakers, who did not attempt any free throws and were outscored in bench points 16-2. They came out and started the second half on a 6-2 run to close to within a point at 32-31 early in the second twenty minutes. The Red Raiders came right back and increased their lead to 39-31.

From there, it was all the Red Raiders as they would push the lead to double figures, and kept it there. The final score was Texas Tech 78 Purdue 65. Tech had three in double figures led by Keenam Evans with 16. Purdue also had three double figures scorers led by Carson Edwards with 30 on 11-for-20 shooting and 4 of 9 from deep.

It sets up a Texas Tech vs Villanova final for the right to head to the Final Four.

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