Villanova’s offense was simply too much for Wake Forest to handle, and the defending national champions knocked off Wake Forest, 96-77. Villanova was led by Josh Hart, who finished with a career-high 30 points. Wake Forest was led offensively by John Collins, who finished by 17 points. What stood out in this one?
Villanova got out to an extremely hot start, and led 8-0 less than two minutes into the game. Wake Forest battled back to cut the lead Villanova lead to just 3, at 21-18, after some great outside shooting from Austin Arians, but Villanova’s offense was simply too much for Wake Forest. Matters were made worse when Bryant Crawford picked up his 2nd foul with more than 12 minutes remaining in the first half, and sat for the remainder of the half. Villanova’s first half lead ballooned to as much as 16, but Wake was able to cut the lead to just 10 at halftime. Nova made 10 of 21 threes in the first half.
The Wildcats came out strong in the second half and continued the hot shooting, and extended the lead to 17 by the under-16 timeout. Villanova extended its lead to above 20 points, but Wake Forest showed some resiliency, and cut the lead to 13 after a 10-2 run, but could get no closer.
Wake Forest’s offense was incredibly efficient in this contest, and had an unadjusted offensive efficiency of 1.24 points per possession. This is really a remarkable feat given that Villanova entered the game with the 5th best defense in the country, according to Ken Pom. Wake Forest achieved this with more balanced scoring. John Collins led Wake Forest with 17 points, but the Deacs had 6 players score in double-figures.
The defense? Not so much. Villanova scored an astonishing 1.56 points per possession. Villanova has a top 5 offense in the country, but that was still a very poor defensive performance by Wake. Arians and Mitoglou did not have the lateral quickness and were either dribbled past or too late to rotate and close out. That was expected, but what was worse was that Villanova beat Wake Forest 34-24 on the glass. Villanova grabbed 9 offensive rebounds, and when Wake struggles to rotate, they can’t exacerbate that problem by giving Villanova additional opportunities.
Today showed me that the offense is legit and can enable Wake to compete against a lot of teams in the country. Today also showed me that the defense has a loooong way to go. Villanova is admittedly a bad matchup for Wake because of Wake starting Arians and Mitoglou, while Villanova is far more guard and win focused, but it was a discouraging sign.
Both teams will have Saturday off before returning to action on Sunday. Villanova will advance to the championship round and take on the winner of tonight’s game between UCF and College of Charleston, while Wake Forest will take on the loser of that matchup in the 3rd place game.