NCAA Tournament: Villanova’s balanced offense downs UNC Asheville

Villanova move into the second round of the NCAA Tournament after defeating UNC Asheville with a 3-point barrage.

Georgia Bulldogs
Kentucky Wildcats

Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats came into the Big Dance this year with a reputation for under-performing in March, as they have not made the second weekend of the tournament since 2009.

The Wildcats made the first step in shaking that reputation after easily disposing of the UNC Asheville Bulldogs 86-56 in their first round match up.

‘Nova opened up the game on a 10-2 run, and looked to shoot the 3-point ball early against the Bulldogs. UNCA has the number one 3-point defense in the nation as they only allow opposing teams to shoot a mere 28.2%.

The Wildcats weren’t phased at all. They shot 44.8% from beyond the arc behind 13-of-29 shooting.

What allowed the Wildcats to get all those open looks was running an inside-out game with Daniel Ochefu. The tallest player on UNCA was 6’6″, Villanova took advantage of this by dumping the ball into Ochefu nearly every possession. If the 6’11” center did not have an easy lay up, he continuously kicked passes out to his teammates, who were more than happy to let the treys fly.

The Wildcats closed out the 1st half on a 14-4 run that was capped by a buzzer-beating 3 by Ryan Arcidiacono. Villanova followed their first half performance by shooting 72% from the field in the second half and rolled to a relatively easy victory.

Ochefu finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks and was the game’s leading scorer. Arcidiacono also had an important contribution, the senior captain shot 4-of-6 from three and had 14 points.

Villanova was extremely balanced and had five double-digit scorers, and six players had a 3-point field goal. They assisted on 21 of 33 field goals (63.6%). The team’s perimeter ball movement was really a beautiful thing to watch.

UNC Asheville finished with three double-digit scorers and were led by freshman Dylan Smith who had 14 points. It’s important to note that the Bulldogs are an extremely young team, four of their five starters were underclassmen. The Bulldogs could be a tournament team for a few years to come.

Villanova looks poised to make a Final Four run this year. Their combination of stingy defense and an offense where everyone contributes should allow a successful bid to win the South region.

The Wildcats will face No. 7 Iowa who squeaked by Temple on a buzzer beating put back by Adam Woodbury.