Page 21 - Villanova advances to Elite Eight

CELEBRATE: Villanova players celebrate a 92-69 win against Miami during a Sweet 16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament's South region at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. TNS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Villanova might have achieved a goal in advancing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu played the NCAA South Region semifinal as if they didn't want the tourney to ever end.

Arcidiacono scored 13 of his 21 points in the first nine minutes Thursday night, and Ochefu returned from an ankle injury to contribute 17, lifting the second-seeded Wildcats to a 92-69 victory over Miami at KFC Yum! Center and advancing them into the Elite Eight.

The Wildcats (32-5) will play the winner of Thursday night's other semifinal game between top-seeded Kansas and No. 5 Maryland for the right to go to their first Final Four since 2009.

Villanova got off to a hot start for the third straight time in the tournament, racing out to a 15-point lead, absorbing a Miami rally that cut the deficit to one, then establishing command once again in the second half. After the Hurricanes (27-8) shot 66.7 percent in the first half, the Cats limited them to 42.3 in the final 20 minutes.

Kris Jenkins matched Arcidiacono's 21 points and added team highs of nine rebounds and four assists. Josh Hart added 14 points for the Wildcats, who continued their torrid shooting in the tournament, hitting at a 62.7 percent clip and draining 10 3-pointers.

With their 23-point win over Miami, the Wildcats have defeated their first three NCAA Tournament opponents by an average of 24 points.

Sheldon McClellan led the Hurricanes with 26 points, and Angel Rodriguez added 13 but only three in the second half.

The two teams put on a terrific shooting display in the first half, which ended with Villanova on top 43-37. The Wildcats shot 64 percent and drained six 3-point baskets, but the Hurricanes were even better --- 66.7 percent shooting, seven 3s, which matched their per-game average this season.

The difference was turnovers: Miami had eight which 'Nova converted into 14 points.

Heart-stopping

The Wildcats, who led by 15 points in the first half before Miami came back and cut the deficit to one, had a heart-stopping moment when Ochefu, who was limited in the Big East tournament by a sprained right ankle, came down on the ankle trying to block a shot by Tonye Jekiri on the Hurricanes' first possession.

Hart, who was saddled with foul trouble in the first half, scored six of the Cats' first 10 second-half points as the lead grew. A 3-point basket by Arcidiacono and two free throws by Ochefu boosted the margin to 58-44 with 12:43 to play.

The Hurricanes never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way. The Wildcats later scored on seven straight possessions, a run that ended with an Arcidiacono 3-ball that extended their margin to 20, 81-61, with 4:47 remaining.

Arcidiacono set the tone from the outset, leading a Villanova offense that connected on 10 of its first 15 shots. Its defense also was doing the job, forcing six turnovers in the first 10 minutes.

When Arcidiacono drained his second 3-pointer with 11:07 left in the first half, he was personally outscoring the Hurricanes 13-10. That 3-point basket followed his own conventional three-point play which touched off a 10-0 run in which Miami went scoreless for 2 minutes. Mikal Bridges' layup and Ochefu's dunk finished off the spurt and gave 'Nova a 24-10 lead with 10:18 remaining.

The Wildcats made it a 15-point game a short time later, 29-14, on Jenkins' 3-pointer with 8:35 left to play in the half. But the Hurricanes swiftly and suddenly got back into the game thanks to four consecutive 3-point baskets on as many possessions within a span of 2:07.

McClellan and Rodriguez alternated on the made treys, hitting two apiece, and cutting the Miami deficit to 29-26 with 6:28 left in the half. A drive down the lane by Rodriguez almost two minutes later reduced the gap to one, 31-30.

Villanova, however, then opened up some daylight with a 7-0 run that made it 38-30 with 2:56 remaining. Hart, who had sat for more than 10 minutes after picking up his second personal just 2:19 into the game, sank a short jumper in the lane and converted both ends of a 1-and-1, while Jenkins knocked down a 3-pointer.