The Bears End the Season For the Wildcats By a 62 – 51 Score
March 27, 2021 –
The season came to an end for the #5 seed Villanova Wildcats eliminated by the Baylor Bears, the number-one seed in the South Regional. Villanova finishes the season with an 18 – 7 record. In the first half the Wildcats looked determined to extend their season leading 30 – 23 at intermission. But in the second half the Bears turned up the defense and got their offense back in synch to win going away.
“We were good enough, we were good enough to beat them,” said Villanova Coach Jay Wright. “They just played better defense down the stretch. I think down the stretch their defense just got into us and wore us down. And it made the difference in the game.”
The 51 points scored by Nova represented their season-low in points scored.
The contest turned in the direction of Baylor midway through the second half. With 11:29 to play Wildcats guard Justin Moore scored give Villanova its last lead at 41 – 39. It would be the last points for the Wildcats in nearly five and a half minutes. Within that window the Bears forced 5 consecutive turnovers and scored the next 8 points to establish control in a 15 – 4 run. They did not let the Wildcats to run their offense.
“They really got into our guards and prevented us from initiating offense,” Wright said. “The just contested every pass, every cut. It took us out of running offense and we had to try to just kind of drive the ball and get some post-ups, but we didn’t do a good job of that. But I think the credit goes to their defense.”
In the pivotal second half Nova turned the ball over 9 times having 17 for the game, which allowed Baylor to gain a huge 22 – 4 advantage in points off turnovers, 9 – 0 in the latter twenty minutes.
In the first half it was Villanova who dictated tempo. The Cats overcame a five-minute scoring drought. In the last 8 minutes of the half the Wildcats outscored the Bears 19 – 5. On defense Villanova forced Baylor out of their offense. The Bears are the number one three-point shooting team in the nation. In the opening 20 minutes they made 2 of 12, and added only one more for the game. But the Wildcats made only three from beyond the arc themselves.
Jermaine Samuels led Nova with 16 points making 4 of 6 from the floor and 8 of 8 from the free throw line. Moore added 15 points. Baylor limited Villanova leading scorer Jeremiah Robinson-Earl to 8 points, but he pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds. Brandon Slater scored 4 points. He had 2 blocked shots and a highlight reel dunk. Slater suffered an ankle injury that forced him out of the game, noticeably during the window where Baylor stormed ahead. Nova had an uncharacteristic low number of assists, 8 on 20 field goals. Turnovers will cause that.
“I guess you could say that we got sped up a little bit,” Samuels said. “Their defense went to another level. During those times you’ve got to be solid with the ball. And we didn’t do a good job of staying solid with it, and they got out in transition.”
The Bears had two players score in double-figures. Adam Flagler led the way with 16 points, 6 at the foul line. He made two from distance. Davion Mitchell added 14 points while Mark Vital grabbed 9 boards.
Baylor advances to the Elite Eight. Villanova will look towards learning and building towards next year. There are a lot of lessons for a year like no other.
“At first, it was kind of like in shock,” said Samuels about realizing the season was over. “We still feel like we have a lot of basketball left to play. But it is what it is. When it finally hit everybody was just thankful that we were a part of this journey and that we were on it together – everybody from coaching staff to managers the GA’s, just grateful for each other.”
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Wright. “Love this team. Loved coaching this team.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian