Villanova vs. Michigan rating: No. 2 seed Wildcats overcome poor capturing, prime Michigan to advance to Elite 8

No. 2 seed Villanova is advancing back to the Elite Eight for the first time since winning the NCAA Tournament title in 2018 after beating No. 11 seed Michigan 63-55 on Thursday night in the South Regional semifinal.

It wasn’t exactly an aesthetically pleasing game, with both teams shooting under 40% from the field and from behind the arc. Some of those offensive woes were a credit to good defense, but there were also plenty of bricks and missed layups that left both teams frustrated at nearly every turn. It was Villanova’s execution that helped the Wildcats control the game for much of the evening, holding the lead for more than 34 minutes while Michigan continually tried to chip away at that advantage but ultimately fell short.

The big star of the night for Villanova was Jermaine Samuels, who led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting and converted on all five of his free throw attempts. The charity stripe is a place where the Wildcats have won all season with their Division I-best free throw shooting percentage, and Thursday’s 10-of-12 showing as a team proved to be another winning margin as Michigan went 7 for 14 on its free throws.

As expected, Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson was the engine for the Wolverines’ offense, and he finished with a team-high 15 points and 15 rebounds. Dickinson and Eli Brooks tried to power Michigan in the comeback effort as Villanova got a little tight at moments down the stretch, but could not get the buckets they needed, combining for 11-for-30 shooting from the field as a pair.

Villanova will face the winner of the No. 1 seed Arizona and No. 5 seed Houston, set to tip off later on Thursday night in San Antonio, in the South Regional final on Saturday.

Below are three things to note about the game, and what it means moving forward:

1. Don’t let Nova hold a lead

The Wildcats have not trailed in the second half of their three games in the NCAA Tournament, and those advantages have played right into Jay Wright’s style of wearing down opponents. While holding a lead on the scoreboard, Villanova can take its time on offense and run through its system to work the shot clock and identify the best shot. It tests the patience and focus of a defense and often leads to good results. The Wildcats don’t even need a large lead to be able to control the game, just an advantage that allows them to comfortably control the tempo and out-execute opponents. In the win, Villanova never led by more than nine points, but each time the lead flirted with or reached double-digits it felt like a dagger for the Wolverines.

2. Title winners come up big

Michigan was the opponent for the 2018 national championship tilt that awarded Wright his second national championship, but most of the featured players from that game were not on the floor in San Antonio for this Sweet 16 showdown. However, two of the remaining members from that title team were instrumental in Thursday night’s victory. Seniors Jermaine Samuels and Collin Gillespie combined for 34 fo the team’s 63 points and five of the team’s nine three-pointers. Neither player was a major on-court contributor for the 2018 championship team, but both have been tasked with leading Villanova in tight moments during the home stretch of this season. That veteran leadership is going to be key for Villanova as it advances to the Elite Eight and looks to return to the Final Four for the first time since Gillespie and Samuels’ freshman season.

3. Michigan finished strong despite loss

Losing a Sweet 16 game always brings disappointment, but it’s especially stinging when it comes because of a poor shooting performance. This was a clean basketball game — neither team committed more than 8 turnovers and both showed good ball movement on offense — but Michigan simply didn’t make enough shots. Juwan Howard and the Wolverines still deserve some attention for how they turned their season around not once but twice. First, they rallied back from the wrong side of the bubble with February wins over Purdue and Iowa. Then, they bounced back from Howard’s suspension and the Wisconsin post-game scuffle to beat three NCAA Tournament teams to close the regular season and secure a spot in the field of 68.

From there it was more positive, beating No. 6 seed Colorado State and No. 3 seed Tennessee as an underdog in the tournament. But the run came to an end against a Wildcats team that has been far more consistent over the course of the season. There’s no shame in that, and Michigan now has two straight appearances in the second weekend to establish the NCAA Tournament expectations in the Howard era at the conclusion of his third year as head coach.

CBS Sports was with you throughout the entire way with live updates, analysis and highlights. Keep it locked here as the Wildcats and Wolverines clash with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. You can watch all the action on March Madness Live.

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