On Sunday afternoon, the Iowa Hawkeyes were no test for the Villanova Wildcats. Although Villanova had been ousted early in March in recent years, the Wildcats trampled on the Hawkeyes, winning 87-68. Most recently, the Wildcats were upset by the No. 8 North Carolina State Wolfpack in last year’s NCAA Tournament despite being a No. 1 seed. Furthermore, Villanova had not been present in Sweet Sixteen since 2009, despite loads of regular season success year in and year out. However, these Wildcats were focused on their mission against Iowa, and Villanova officially put the slump to rest. The Wildcats took control of the game from the start, relying on intense ball pressure and scolding outside shooting.
According to CBS Philly, Daniel Ochefu noted that this game had been nagging at the team for much of the season.
“Everybody’s been talking about this game for the whole year, even in the summertime before the season started. So the fact that the game is here and we can finally just get it done. Hopefully, we’ll get the win, and people will stop talking about it.”
And, after Villanova’s beatdown of Iowa, the team, the fans and the rest of the college basketball community can now stop talking about it. This was one of the most complete games of the season for the Wildcats, and it came at a time when many speculated whether or not recent history would once again prevail. In the end, recent history failed to repeat itself, and Villanova can now put their slump behind them and key in on winning the tournament.
Offensively, Villanova relied on penetrate and kick opportunities, which have been a staple for the Wildcats this whole season. Against Iowa, Villanova assisted on 23 of their 32 field goals. From the outside, the Wildcats shot 10-19 from behind the arc. Villanova was led by the three-point shooting prowess of Kris Jenkins, who finished 3-5 from behind the arc. Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, and Phil Booth also chipped in with three-pointers of their own.
On the other end, it was the Wildcats’ defense that set the tone early in the game. Iowa struggled against the constant on-ball pressure and full-court pressure from Villanova, who forced Iowa into 13 turnovers. The Wildcats pressured the ball, jumped passing lanes and deflected passes from start to finish, and this clearly took the Hawkeyes out of the game offensively. These turnovers were especially costly for Iowa, as the Wildcats turned them into easy points on a consistent basis.
This pressure was made possible by Ochefu’s length inside, and as usual, he was a force in the middle of the defense. Everything the Wildcats try to do defensively revolves around Ochefu’s rim protection, which was easily observable in Sunday’s contest. Ochefu finished with three blocks, and Villanova’s center altered several other shots around the rim. With Ochefu deterring shots inside consistently, the Wildcats know that they can pressure the outside with increased confidence knowing that Ochefu is ready to clean up some of their gambles behind them.
Ultimately, it has yet to be seen if Villanova will truly live up to the hype this season. Still, after two tournament games in the books, these Wildcats look more ready than ever to make noise as this tournament continues.
What do you think? Is this Jay Wright team a legitimate threat to win the championship, or are these Wildcats just another Villanova pretender?
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