For their seventh straight NCAA Tournament, the Villanova Wildcats are onto the Round of 32.
#5 Villanova closed out the first day of the 2021 NCAA Tournament with a bang Friday night, coming away with a 73-63 win over #12 Winthrop.
Villanova came into the game on a two-game losing streak, dropping their regular season finale to Providence and their first Big East Tournament contest against Georgetown. The Wildcats looked lost and inconsistent in those two games as they were reeling from the season-ending knee injury suffered by Big East Co-Player of the Year Collin Gillespie. All week long, pundits suggested the 23-1 Winthrop Eagles would be a great upset candidate.
Enter Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
The sophomore center and Big East Co-Player of the Year did a bit of everything for the Wildcats in the victory, leading the team in points (22), rebounds (11), assists (6), and blocks (3). He also played a game-high 38 minutes and went 8-11 from the free throw line, all of which came in the second half.
Despite Robinson-Earl’s dominant display, it wasn’t always easy for the Wildcats. They exploded out to a 10 point lead over the first seven minutes before WInthrop caught fire with a 17-6 run to grab the lead with six minutes to play in the first half. The teams would trade the lead back and forth over the duration of the half before Cole Swider sunk a three with 14 seconds left to give Villanova a one-point lead to take into the locker room.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room with a bang, with Bryan Antoine hitting back to back threes early in the half to put ‘Nova back up nine. From there, ‘Nova would keep adding on when Winthrop would start crawling back into the game, ultimately coming away with the ten-point victoyr.
While Robinson-Earl did the heavy lifting, Justin Moore’s 15 points was certainly a nice supplement. Jermaine Samuels finished with 11 and Caleb Daniels had 10.
DJ Burns led Winthrop with 12 points before fouling out in the second half.
Villanova will go as far as Robinson-Earl will take them in this tournament, and if he can be the player he was Friday, they have a shot at making a run.
A trip to their seventh Sweet Sixteen under Jay Wright awaits Villanova if they can avoid being upset by #13 North Texas on Sunday.