The Villanova Wildcats saw their season come to an end Saturday in the Sweet 16 with a 62-51 loss to the #1 seeded Baylor Bears.
The Wildcats looked like they were headed for an upset, after playing a nearly-flawless first half of basketball, shooting 50% from the field, limiting Baylor’s possessions, keeping the Bears off the glass, and overall just showing why Jay Wright will likely be announced as a hall of famer this summer.
Villanova took a 30-23 lead into the half behind 22 combined points from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Jermaine Samuels, and Justin Moore. Despite the lead, though, it always kind of felt as if the game was one Baylor run away from everything changing.
Nova’s strong play continued early in the second half. Brandon Slater had an emphatic dunk with about 13 minutes to go to put the Wildcats back up six that made it look like Nova had the momentum on their side, but Baylor answered with an immediate 6-0 run to tie the game.
Once the Bears evened things up, they took over. Villanova came into Saturday’s game with 12 turnovers in the entire NCAA Tournament, and Baylor forced nine in the second half alone. By the time the four minute mark rolled around, Baylor had flipped the game and taken a seven-point lead, clamping down and dominating over the final 10 minutes of the second half to secure the victory.
Jermaine Samuels led Villanova with 16 points, while Adam Flagler had 16 for Baylor.
Villanova finishes the year at 18-7. It doesn’t do any good to play hypotheticals, but one has to wonder if the Wildcats’ turnover issues in the second half on Saturday would have been suppressed if they had a healthy Collin Gillespie. For now, though, it’s time to look ahead to next season.