The Villanova Wildcats were able to take care of business and take down the seventh seeded Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday night by a final score of 71-61.
The Wildcats were led by the Big East Scholar Athlete of the Year Collin Gillespie’s 20 points, as well as a 17 point and 8 rebound outing from Jermaine Samuels. Ohio State’s Malaki Branham led all scorers with 23 points and EJ Liddell tallied on an additional 17 points and six rebounds as well.
Villanova started the scoring with a three ball by Jermaine Samuels on the opening possession of the game. A back and forth affair in the opening minutes was broken up after Villanova’s Collin Gillespie went on a personal 8-0 run to give the Wildcats a double digit advantage early in the first half.
From there, the closest Ohio State would get in the first half was six points as Villanova stretched their lead to eleven going into the halftime break. Coming out of the locker room, the second half looked to be much of the same as the first.
An Eric Dixon three pointer off a Malaki Branham turnover would give the Wildcats their largest lead at 15 with only 1:50 seconds elapsed in the second half. The game, frankly, looked over and Ohio State looked mentally and physically defeated.
That was the case up until the twelve minute mark in the second half, when a Zed Key layup would cut Villanova’s lead to single digits. From there, the Malaki Branham show broke out and all of a sudden, with 5:29 remaining in regulation, Villanova found their lead was cut to two.
Following an Ohio State timeout, a Jermaine Samuels layup would pad the Villanova lead and a Collin Gillespie mid range jump shot would put the Wildcats up by five with 3:55 to go. In a game where, suddenly, both offenses were clicking on all cylinders, the scoring went silent. Over two and a half minutes of game time without a single point from either team was broken up by the most unlikely of sources. An Eric Dixon three ball put Villanova up by eight, and put the metaphorical dagger in the Ohio State coffin.
The Wildcats, who are currently on pace to be the best free throw shooting team of all-time, never looked back as the lead grew to ten and the clock struck midnight on any upset hopes from the Buckeye faithful.
Ohio State battled back from what looked like an insurmountable deficit and a lot of props have to be given to Chris Holtmann and his staff for that. EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham, although they most likely won’t be back with the Buckeyes, were instrumental pieces to this team’s season and the run they went on. Without them, this game is a whole lot different.
As of right now, Meechie Johnson and Eugene Brown III will headline next seasons starters at Ohio State under head coach Chris Holtmann. 247Sports also ranks Ohio State’s 2022 recruiting class as number one in the Big Ten, and number five in the whole country. The Buckeyes should have nothing to hang their heads on this season, and coach Holtmann and his staff have them set up for an extremely bright future.
As for the Wildcats, they are not done yet. If you ask any player or coach, they will respectfully tell you that they expected to be here, and that a sweet sixteen berth is a culmination of all of the hard work they have put in all year long.
Their next game will be on Thursday, March 24th in San Antonio Texas against the 11th-seed Michigan Wolverines. We all know what happened the last time Villanova played Michigan in San Antonio, let’s hope for the same results this time around.