Brooklyn, NY - Villanova’s first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament wanted to make something clear: There is no hyphen in their name.
The proper handle for the Big South Champion is UNC Asheville. Villanova is the ‘brand name’ more familiar to the casual fan. UNC Asheville, in their own right, is very successful, with 15 or more wins in nine straight seasons. Villanova knew this and prepared accordingly. There would be no fifteenth-seed surprise here, as the Wildcats took care of business and rolled to an 86-56 decision at Barclays Center.
First half: One of the main ‘selling points’ of UNC Asheville is their 28.4% three point defense, the best in the country. Almost in defiance, Villanova’s first two trips down the floor are attempts beyond the arc, finding nothing but net. After five possessions and two-and-a-half-minutes, Villanova leads 10-4. Villanova is employing some three-quarter court pressure. The defense allows the opposition to be taken out of a comfort zone, and here, it also forces some turnovers. On their end, Asheville is trapping on the perimeter. Quick reversal will leave a shooter open, but it’s a chance the 15th-seeded Bulldogs will take. Offense is the UNC Asheville problem. The Bulldogs struggle to get a flow on their end while committing turnovers, leading to ‘Nova runouts. Bulldog coach Nick McDevitt is showing multiple defensive looks, with the latest a 1-3-1 half court trap. A 14-4 run capped by Ryan Arcidiacono’s buzzer-beater gives Villanova teirt needed ‘separation.’
Score: Villanova 40, UNC Asheville 26
Possessions: Villanova 33, UNC Asheville 31
Offensive efficiency: Villanova 121, UNC Asheville 84
- UNC Asheville was not only guilty of a 32 percent turnover rate, those errors also led to a 21-7 ‘Nova edge in points off turnovers.
Second half: Early possessions see Villanova looking inside with successful results. UNC Asheville’s offense comes out more effective. The problem is stopping Villanova, especially inside. The Wildcats win the ‘first four’ 10-8, and at the 16-minute mark, lead 50-34. After getting established in the paint, Villanova now knocks down a few perimeter jumpers. Simple domination. From the 12-minute mark to eight, Villanova went on a 14-0 run, their lead extending to 30 points. Daniel Ochefu has been impressive inside for the Wildcats. With five minutes left, the 6-11 senior (17 points) was nearly over twice his season average (9 points per game) in scoring.
Final score: Villanova 86, UNC Asheville 56
Possessions: Villanova 66 UNC Asheville 65
Offensive efficiency: Villanova 130, UNC Asheville 86
eFG%: Villanova 69, UNC Asheville 41
Free Throw Rate: Villanova 19, UNC Asheville 23
Offensive Rebound%: Villanova 26, UNC Asheville 32
Turnover Rate: Villanova 17, UNC Asheville 22
What Villanova did well: Shoot and defend. The Wildcats buried 13 three-pointers to post a 66 percent eFG mark against a team known for perimeter defending, and a defensive efficiency of 86, mainly due to a 22 percent turnover rate.
What UNC Asheville did well: Reduce turnovers the final twenty minutes. After an ungodly opening stanza, the Bulldogs committed just four turnovers for a much improved rate of 11 percent following the intermission.
NOTES: Villanova led 36-26 on points in the paint and 27-13 in points off turnovers. Villanova’s 21 assists on 33 field goals produced a 64 percent assist rate, with depth an added plus as the Wildcats showed a 24-10 advantage in bench scoring.
Five Wildcats scored in double digits. The defensive efficiency allowed by Asheville was 32 over their season average (98).
“First of all, I'd like to congratulate Villanova. They're a good basketball team, really good. I told our team before the game that I didn't think we had to play perfect to win the game, but we had to play really, really good. Really good. And close to perfect. And we didn't. They really do a fantastic job of sharing the basketball. You look at 21 assists on 33 made baskets. That's a great percentage. So any time a team shares the ball like that and can spread you out by the way they shoot it and good enough to put the ball on the deck and get by you, it makes them difficult to defend. He (Daniel Ochefu) was really good, really efficient. 17 and 10 on nine shots. We just didn't have a whole lot for him down there. Early, I thought we kept him off balance. We were -- in terms of showing him different looks, from doubling down from our guards to digging hard from our guards. Our posts were trying to do a nice job of playing behind and then trying to side front him, giving him different looks. He looked uncomfortable for a while, but like all great players, he recognized what we were doing and had a heck of a game. Difficult. Difficult. I think they played like a team that is probably tired of hearing it, for one, for the upperclassmen (of Villanova not advancing past the first weekend). It (recruiting) is difficult because you look at leagues like ours, there are two very like leagues around us in the Atlantic Sun and the Southern Conference. So a lot of Big South, Southern Conference, and A-SUN programs going after the same guys. You can probably head to other areas of the country where perhaps there aren't leagues like ours. They're only the high major leagues or kind of the mid-major plus guys. And schools like ourselves can go into those kinds of areas and certainly steal players. to start the season with a lot of freshmen, not knowing -- we really didn't even know who might start, who might play, how we were going to play, who was going to step up. Will Weeks, a gentleman that played a lot for us tonight, has been out really two years with a knee injury. So you add him. John Cannon is eligible as a transfer. So you're looking at us, we've got so many newcomers. We were picked to finish seventh in our league. So to be able to win our league with two freshmen and two sophomores starting takes a lot of toughness, sticking together.” - UNC Asheville coach Nick McDevitt
“It means a lot to us. One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to win a conference, and that's one of the things we did. So we're really happy about that. We're happy to be here. This is a great experience. It's not the outcome that we wanted, but it's still a day that we all will remember. We all are happy about it. Not happy about today, but happy about what we accomplished and look forward to the future.” - Sam Hughes, UNC Asheville
“Great start for us. I think it came down to our two seniors right here, Daniel and Arcidiacono, having the experience to understand how good of a team Asheville is. We try to tell those guys after the game, Coach McDevitt and their players, that's a young team. They're freshmen and sophomores, man. They're going to be around. They're really good, very well coached. The score doesn't indicate how tough they are. What the score indicates is we have two seniors that got a bunch of young guys to understand, if you don't bring it 100 percent against a team like that, they'll beat you. They're good enough to beat us, but we played well because we really brought it and we had great leadership. Honestly, a lot of mixed emotions about those games. Growing up in Philly, every time I coach in one of those games, I've got to pinch myself that I'm in it. In Philadelphia, that's like an Auburn-Alabama -- it's like living in Alabama and playing an Auburn-Alabama football game. Any game you play in the NCAA Tournament, it just takes on a whole different vibe. In '09, when we played Pitt in the final eight, I remember people saying, well, it's just another Big East game. It was not another Big East game. It was just so much bigger. The finality brings a lot more to the game. Big Five games are big in Philly, trust me, but this would be bigger. Like I said, that UNC Asheville team is very, very good. And these two have been through a lot of games. They know that kind of team can beat you, and they just stayed on our guys about all the details -- preparation, when we were watching film, telling them how important everything was. And it's really because of those two on the floor that we really played well.” - Villanova coach Jay Wright
“We got over it (losing the Big East championship) extremely quickly. We had the selection show the day after, and we found out we were playing UNC Asheville. So everybody just eliminated that loss in their mind. We learned what we could from it, and we started preparing for UNC Asheville.”- Daniel Ochefu of Villanova