By Joseph Santoliquito
Buffalo, NY (CBS)—With just over 4 minutes to play, the stands began to thin at the First Niagra Center, in Buffalo, N.Y. Villanova and Milwaukee had done a very good job of draining any verve from the crowd much earlier than that in their second-round NCAA Tournament game Friday night.
Villanova went on to win a rather mundane 73-53 over Milwaukee to advance to the third round and meet its old Big East rival Connecticut on Saturday.
The No. 2 Wildcats were led by Darrun Hilliard’s 16 points, on 6-for-11 shooting, and 15 from JayVaughn Pinkston. Milwaukee closed its season 21-13 and received a game-high 17 from Austin Arians.
Villanova coach Jay Wright did stress that when things weren’t going well, his team had to focus on other things. It was defense that held Milwaukee down, while the sputtering Wildcats’ offense righted itself.
The Wildcats were 0-for-their-first 16 from three-point range and were 10 for 33 in the first half, a robust 30-percent from the floor.
The Villanova put the clamps on Milwaukee, holding the Panthers to 23 points in the first half on 26-percent shooting (9-34), while forcing 8 turnovers.
No, it wasn’t pretty. But the Wildcats showed when one strong area wasn’t working, they adjusted. For the game, Milwaukee made just 18 of 63 shots.
Wright, however, wanted to keep his team’s halftime shooting stats to himself. It turned out to be a wise move. The Wildcats found their range in the second half, going 19-for-30 in the second half (63-percent) and finishing the game 29-for-63.
One thing is certain: Villanova can’t afford a start like that against UConn on Saturday.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.