The clock struck midnight for Cinderella hopeful North Texas
The fifth-seed Villanova Wildcats (18-6) are moving on to the Sweet Sixteen after an utterly dominant performance in the Round of 32, dismantling the North Texas Mean Green (18-10) by a final score of 84-61. North Texas’ Javion Hamlet led all scorers with 25 points, while Villanova posted four starters in double figures.
The Mean Green started the game strong, throwing everything they had at Villanova in the way of defensive sets and offensive packages. At the 11:32 mark of the first half, North Texas actually led Villanova by eight points, 21-13. On the Wildcats very next possession, Justin Moore flipped in a crafty floater, which would propel Villanova to a 34-6 run to end the first half. The second half story line was much of the same, with North Texas coming out of the halftime break strong, connecting on their first three attempts from beyond the arc. Their comeback efforts were short lived however, as Villanova would run away with the remainder of the second half by reinforcing their tenacious defense and three point barrage.
Javion Hamlet and the North Texas Mean Green have absolutely nothing to hang their head on this season. After being ranked seventh in the pre-season Conference USA rankings, Hamlet and the Mean Green went on to win the Regular Season Title and their Conference Tournament. Their special season was encapsulated by upsetting the fourth-seed Purdue Boilermakers in the first round for the programs first NCAA Tournament win in school history. The Mean Green are a very talented and well coached team so expect to see them back and making some noise in this tournament again sooner rather than later.
As for Villanova, if they shoot the ball and defend as well as they did last night, they will give any team they play against fits. The Wildcats connected on 15 threes last night by eight different players, tying a tournament record. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl once again led the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points, but every single player contributed on both ends of the floor. The unlikely defensive player of the game was Cole Swider who has made incredible improvements on the defensive end seemingly overnight. The trio of ball-handlers in Justin Moore, Chris Arcidiacono, and Bryan Antoine have really stepped up in the absence of Collin Gillespie and have ran the offense extremely efficiently in that time.
The Wildcats will now turn their attention now to the Baylor Bears, a team they were supposed to meet earlier in the season, but could not due to covid restrictions. This will be an extremely tough matchup for Villanova as Baylor is as experienced as they are talented. Baylor is a very popular pick to cut down the nets in April, but if Villanova sticks together like they have been and shoots the ball as efficiently as they have in their last two games, Baylor could be in for a surprise and Villanova could add to the number of upsets in an already chaotic tournament.
Catch that game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, March 27th, at 5:15pm on CBS.