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NCAA Tournament: Villanova advances to Final Four with victory over Houston

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Villanova is back in the Final Four.

The Wildcats withstood a second-half push from Houston to advance to their third Final Four in the last six NCAA tournaments with a 50-44 win over the Cougars.

Villanova led the entire game and held a comfortable lead for much of the second half. But Houston cut Villanova’s lead to 42-40 before a big jumper by shooting guard Collin Gillespie put the lead back at four with 5:04 left.

Gillespie has been a rock for the Wildcats all season and especially in the NCAA tournament. He has made decisive plays whenever Villanova has needed them. He had a quiet night Saturday with only six points, but that basket and some free throws with less than 26 seconds left essentially snuffed out any chance Houston had to come back.

Villanova suffered a huge potential loss with less than a minute left when Justin Moore went down with an apparent injury to his lower right leg while trying to drive to the basket. Moore fell to the ground when something gave way in his right leg and had to be helped onto Villanova’s bench as he struggled to put weight on the leg.

Neither team shot well from the field, though that was expected for a game that featured two of the best defensive teams in college basketball. Both teams entered the game allowing fewer than 63 points per game and their defensive reputations were delivered as promised with officials allowing both teams to play physically.

Villanova shot just 29% from the field while Houston was just 33% from the field. However, the Wildcats were perfect from the free throw line. Villanova was 15-for-15 at the fringe while Houston was 9-for-14.

The Cougars were also abysmal behind the arc. Houston was 1 for 20 of three. Yeah, 1-for-20. She only made three of the game with 16:14 to go when Taze Moore hit a three to cut Villanova’s lead to seven. That mark came on Houston’s 10th 3-point attempt of the night. The Cougars missed their last 10 3-pointers of the game because they just couldn’t even tie the Wildcats.

Moore’s injury becomes very important

If Moore’s injury is serious, Villanova faces a big challenge in the Final Four against Kansas or Miami. Moore is the team’s second leading scorer behind Gillespie on a Wildcats team that only plays six deep and has been exceptionally healthy all season.

Gillespie, Moore, Jermaine Samuels, Eric Dixon and Brandon Slater have all missed a combined game all season, while sixth man Caleb Daniels has missed just three games. If Moore is out of the Final Four, and his injury didn’t seem minor, then Villanova will need someone outside the rotation to step up.

No one else outside of those six players averages more than 10 minutes per game. Chris Arcidiacono could be in line for a bigger role and he is expected to score more than he has. The junior has averaged just 1.7 points in 9.8 minutes per game in 34 games. If Daniels gets into the starting lineup instead of Moore, Arcidiacono could be the first guard off the bench.

Houston misses consecutive Final Four

Houston finishes the season with a 32-6 record and a win before a second straight Final Four appearance.

The Cougars made it to the Elite Eight thanks to a stifling defense and defended well enough to reach another Final Four. But the lack of a goalscorer was apparent against a tough Villanova team. That scorer was Marcus Sasser, but he suffered a season-ending foot injury in December after averaging 18 points per game at the start of the season.

Taze Moore led Houston with 15 points and no other Cougars player reached double figures. Kyler Edwards was 0-for-8 from three while Jamal Shead was 0-for-5.

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – MARCH 26: Collin Gillespie #2 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts during the second half against the Houston Cougars in Elite Round 8 of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the AT&T Center on March 26, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

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