The narrative going into the Sweet 16 matchup was that when comparing Villanova and Miami, it was like looking in to a mirror.
On Thursday night, both teams looked similar in nature, until Villanova made it clear that it was its night. The Wildcats downed the Hurricanes 92-69, beating them in lopsided fashion.
Leading at the half by six, Villanova was able to pull away in the second half in order to score the most points it has scored in the tournament.
The Wildcats were able to push their lead up to double figures, thanks to a three by Ryan Arcidiacono. Later in the half, Villanova was able to eventually stretch its lead into the twenties after a dunk by Daniel Ochefu and another three.
Once they got their lead deep into double figures, Villanova slowed the tempo of the game down in order to kill some time and keep Miami from coming back.
Arcidiacono had a big game in his first ever Sweet 16, scoring a team-high 21 points while going 7-of-11 on the floor and 4-for-7 from long range.
“On the offensive end, I found myself getting open looks and getting to the free-throw line.” Arcidiacono said. “A couple of plays from the foul line were from turnovers that Mikal got on, dove on a loose ball. I have to credit my teammates for finding me in the open position.”
He was an instrumental part of getting Villanova to start off hot. In the early stages of the game, the senior point guard singlehandedly outscored the Hurricanes. He had 13 points while Miami as a team had 10.
Arcidiacono was key in allowing the Wildcats to get off to a 29-14 start. On the other end of the court, a complete defensive effort rattled the Hurricanes.
Villanova was able to force eight turnovers in the first half, translating into 14 first half points.
However, the big lead didn’t last for long. Just as Miami had done previously against Wichita State, the Hurricanes rallied back.
Four straight Hurricane 3-pointers immediately cut into Villanova’s lead. Eventually, a layup by Angel Rodriguez cut the ‘Cats lead down to just one.
On the other end of the court, the Hurricanes were getting the job done.
“Well, we switched defenses twice — well, three times,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We were playing man, then we switched to a two-three zone, then we switched to a three-two zone. Each time we switched, we were able to cut a little bit into the lead.”
Villanova clung onto a 31-30 lead with 4:33 remaining in the first half. It would be the closest that Miami ever got to snatching the lead away from Villanova, as a 7-0 Wildcat spurt got the ‘Cats some separation. From there, the Wildcats could hardly look back.
“They only took 15 threes,” Larrañaga said. “Seemed like they took 30 and made 25 of them. Seemed like every, every opportunity we had to get a stop, especially like at the end of the first half, it’s a 3-point game, they throw it out to Kris Jenkins and he buries a 35-footer like it’s a layup.”
Villanova eventually took a 43-37 lead, and the first half fortunes were just a sign of things to come.
The Wildcats eventually finished the game shooting an outstanding 32-of-51 (62.7 percent) overall and 10-of-15 (66.7 percent) from beyond the arc.
A part of the reason for the success from long range is from the inside out play that Villanova was able to establish. Despite defensive stalwarts Tonye Jekiri and Kimari Murphy guarding the paint for Miami, the Wildcats were not afraid to go inside.
Hart and Daniel Ochefu were able to find success inside. Hart never took a single three, taking all of his shots from inside the arc. The junior guard had 14 points. As for Ochefu, he finished with 17 points off of 7-of-11 shooting.
Their shooting performance never skipped to beat, as the defensive effort intensified on the other end.
After shooting 66.7 percent on the floor in the first half, Villanova was able to contain Miami to 42.3 percent shooting in the second.
“I’m really pleased with their intensity,” Wright said. “It all comes from them. You can just see they’re hungry. They’re hungry to advance. They’re hungry to prepare.”
Arcidiacono wasn’t the only one to surpass the 20 point mark for the blue and white. Jenkins also finished with 21 points and was locked in from the three-point line, where he went 5-of-6.
As for Miami, Sheldon McClellan led the way with a game-high 26 points. Rodriguez had 13 points and eight assists.
Villanova will take on top-seeded Kansas in the Elite 8. Tip-off is this Saturday at 8:49 p.m.